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7 Strategies to Stop Writer Procrastination

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Sometimes it’s just impossible to write. Life gets in the way or something shinier comes along, something way more fun than writing.

I’ve been writing for ten years now, and I’ve come up with several strategies to give myself a kick start when the last thing I want to do is write to meet a looming deadline.

1. Do timed writing sessions.

Set your oven timer or computer/phone timer for half an hour or an hour. Sit down and write until the timer goes off. Repeat throughout the day until your target number of words is achieved.

2. Do timed writing sessions with other writers.

Call a friend and do a joint writing session. If you belong to a group like Savvy Authors or Romance Divas pop into their chat rooms and do some sprint writing with other writers. Find other writers on Twitter using the hashtag #1k1hr and accept their challenge.

3. Go to a cafe or library.

Write in a cafe or a library – a place where you can’t leap up and do something else. This is my favorite strategy.

4. Give yourself a deadline/target.

Then sit down and write. Kick your deadline’s butt. I try to write 2000 words most days. If I’m having a tough time keeping my butt in my seat, I’ll break down my target words into 500 word blocks and attack them in shorter writing sessions.

5. Earn a treat.

Make a deal with yourself. If you sit down and write the required number of words within a specified time, you’ll receive a treat. The treat can be something like watching a movie or taking time out to read a book or a chocolate bar.

6. Try working on a scene that comes later in the book.

Sometimes we need a change of pace to get the words flowing.

7. Just do it.

Sometimes, we need to grit it out and force ourselves to write. The output mightn’t be pretty, but remember that at least we’re putting words to paper. We can always fix them later during the polishing stage.

Do you have any additional suggestions?

Plotus Interuptus with Christine Price

My special guest today is fellow Carina Press author, Christine Price. Here’s Christine’s official bio – Christine Price lives in Edmonton, AB, with her husband, two cats and a slightly idiotic Anatolian shepherd. Though she probably wouldn’t consider herself a “girly girl,” Christine is in love with cooking and baking, and she has recently tried her hand at cake decorating. As a public service, she’d like to warn people about the potential threat posed by twenty pounds of rolled fondant and a slightly inebriated best friend. In her free time, Christine enjoys wine, good movies and even better books. Her first work, Soul Bond, was released in April 2010.

Today, Christine is talking about her adventures in writing…

In Darkness Bound In Darkness Bound is my first novel-length publication. And I learned a lot from writing it. For example, the importance of fully developing a climax and the “Great Ah-hah Moment.” Actually, the first draft of IDB was at least 20,000 words shorter than the finished manuscript and missed a lot in the way of character development. Overall, the novel is waaaaay better for the revisions. But I also learned something that never would have struck me before now. Instead of going into the lengthy summation of the discovery, or doing an interpretive dance (which would be a little difficult without the use of a webcam and YouTube) allow me to provide a brief script:

Me: So?

Beta Reader: Okay, I liked x, y and z. But I don’t get what’s going on with w.

Me: Well, here’s the plot point.

Beta Reader: Huh… you should probably put that in somewhere.

Me: I did. It was on page 120.

Beta Reader: OH! … … But that’s the sex scene.

Me: Yeah.

Beta Reader: You may want to rethink that.

What my Beta Reader didn’t come right out and say was that a major plot point in a sex scene isn’t always a great idea. This was a realization I had to come to myself.

So why is it? Well…when people read romance, they want to lose themselves in the romance. The erotic passages are especially important. They establish the intimacy between the characters and heightening the sensuality in the relationship. Readers—myself included—use their imaginations during these scenes. There are also readers who prefer to read for the plot, and tend to skim the sex scenes entirely.

See where I’m going with this? No matter what the motivation for reading, I think that there’s a chance that if you include important plot points in a sex scene they’re going to be missed. This by no means goes for everyone who’s ever read a romance novel. But I’ll admit I’ve done it. In my favourite romance book of all times, I skimmed through each sex scene because I wanted to get on with the plot. When I went back and read it over (for the second, third, fourth, fifth and twentieth times) then I appreciated the sex scenes. If there’d been any important developments during those flitting pages of eroticism, however, I totally would have missed them.

I guess there’s not really a moral to my story. (Well, not to anyone other than me anyway). My novel helped me with several key points in the development of my writing. One of them just happened to be this one. As I continue writing, it’s one that will stick with me.

Maybe.

Contest: What are your thoughts? Plot in a sex scene – yes or no? Are you a skimmer? A “lose yourself in”-er? Or neither? Post an answer to Christine’s questions in the comments section and go into a draw to win a download of In Darkness Bound

Here’s the blurb for In Darkness Bound:

Data Collection by Dalhousie, Dr. Donna L.

Patient 331

New, confused. His powers unknown.

Patient 289

No longer viable in the test pool, he remains in isolation.

Patient 77

Reclassified to staff status. Useful, malleable.
Confined in a sterile research facility and treated like a lab rat, Chris is alone and terrified. His special powers are his only escape, allowing him to psychically connect with other patients.

Alone in his cell for longer than he can remember, Vance is hungry. When newcomer Chris makes a mental connection, Vance is intrigued and soon wants more than just conversation.

Chris and Vance seek comfort with each other, and with Simon—the only staff member who’s shown them a hint of compassion. Their relationships develop during stolen moments, and they turn their thoughts to escape. But as Dr. Dalhousie’s madness spirals, more than cell walls threaten to keep them apart…

Purchase from Carina Press

You can visit Christine at her website or chat to her on twitter.

Writer Tip: Monica Burns

“The middle of the book is often a really crucial turning point for a writer. For me, I usually find myself at a crossroad not sure where to turn with the book. I’ve found that printing out and reading what I’ve written so far helps me reconnect with the characters so that by the time I’ve read through the book, I’m ready to roll with the last half of the book. Another thing I’ve found very useful when editing is to read the book out loud. It helps me catch things the eye generally overlooks.”

Visit Monica Burns’ website.
Purchase Monica Burn’s upcoming release, Assassin’s Honor.

Writing Tips

This month I’m bringing you a series of writing tips from some of my favorite authors. There will also be tips from my writer friends. You might even find the odd writing tip from me.

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Come back every day for writing advice from authors such as Shiloh Walker, Nalini Singh, Larissa Ione, Sarah Mayberry and many more…

Pros and Cons of Writing for Different Publishers (part two)

This is part two about the pros and cons of writing for different publishers. Part one appeared yesterday.

Pros and Cons of Writing for Different Publishers (part two) by Brenna Lyons

Choosing your publishers: Risk Management?

Bride Ball by Brenna LyonsSplitting your investments- This is actually another reason that many people choose more than one publisher. There are authors who have experienced the fall of a publisher and had to scramble to place all their books again. Understandably, they don’t want that to happen to them again, so they keep their eggs in different baskets. But…

Watch your percentages in high risk baskets– You have to look on choosing publishers as risk management much as you would view investing your money. What makes a high risk? A new company. A company that doesn’t have a full, competent, experienced staff. A company based on a “radical new idea” for shaking up the industry. An owner who doesn’t have a solid business plan. An owner that lacks people skills…or depends too highly on people skills and too little on business sense. A business that has already had financial and interpersonal blow-ups. You can take on some high risk, as long as you balance it with low to moderate risk publishers. It’s a good idea to weight your basket toward low and moderate risk companies and not high risk. Even the most aggressive planning doesn’t advocate putting all your resources in high risk. Placing all of your work with high risk carries the high risk of losing it all.

Do your homework with ALL publishers– Having more than one publisher does not make you all knowing. No matter how much you might like to claim you can, you cannot “spot a good company or bad” at a hundred paces, though it is usually easier to spot warning signs of a bad risk than it is to say with conviction that the company is a good one at a glance. You have to research all prospective publishers and assess their risk factors. For more information see my two part series about choosing a publisher. Part one. Part two.

New companies/old associates: does experience translate?– As I said earlier, it is never a good idea to choose a company just for…the company you would be keeping, though choosing not to work with someone you clash with may be a very good idea. Just because someone has good ideas for marketing her own book does not mean the person is capable of marketing an entire company. Just because someone was an EIC for five years does not mean that person is skilled as a company owner and will make the right decisions for the company when given all decision making. Not all experience is equal, and friendship is not business savvy.

You can actually hurt your chances rather than help them– Choosing the wrong publishers can hinder you toward your goals….which we will cover more in contracts. But, you can also hinder yourself by spreading your books too thin. Conventional wisdom says that it takes roughly three books with any publisher to start making a name with the company…and making decent money. It is almost impossible to break even and build an audience when you have one or two books each thrown in a half dozen venues.

Special concerns when you have more than one?

Contract provisions to watch out for– You have to be very careful, especially with the contract you sign. There are contracts that specify that the author is expected to keep a web site for only the publisher’s books…or that the publisher will not link to your site if you don’t comply. Forcing you to split your audience (or not giving you the same exposure they give every other author) is counterproductive to your aims of building an audience, and you should not sign something that does it. Always keep your contractual obligations in mind when signing a contract. Can you live to each contract you sign? How long will your rights be held up? How soon can you move to another publisher if things don’t work out? Do you have an “out clause?” Never sign a contract that gives blanket first refusal rights. Why?

Splitting series and related books– You do not want to be forced into a position where you have to split a series or related books from a series because you have signed first refusal to someone else. Keeping related books together is usually a good idea. Putting out shorts in anthologies that relate back to an established world somewhere else, while not overly appreciated by the anthology publisher in some cases, are a different matter. I look on them more as throwing out bait. It’s further exploiting the idea of bringing readers from one company home to another. Always spell out how far that “series” ranges in first right of refusal clauses. If you write the same world in another timeline and with new characters, is that still the series? If you write related books not on the same world (don’t you love science fiction?), is it still the series? The first is debatable. The second is arguably no, even if you see characters from the series there.

Pen Names– Never allow a company to own your pen name. That both steals your word of mouth from you and forces you to split your marketing. Instead of selling YOU and the books. You are forced to sell YOU and YOU and the books. This is a bad idea all the way around. The closer you can bring your pen names, assuming you aren’t writing in clashing genres like erotica and children’s, the better it is for you. It is always better to spend $100 promoting Brenna Lyons than $60 promoting Brenna Lyons and $40 promoting Brenna Stuart, with no apparent connection between them. If you are separating two adult reading genres, you may want a single site that splits into the pen names/genres. That allows for possible carry-over from one pen name to the other from regular readers. If your genres are children’s and adult, you may want two different sites entirely! In fact, it’s probably preferable that you do it that way.

Brenna Lyons is a bestselling, award-winning author in spec fic indie press. With 21 series worlds and stand-alones, it’s not a surprise that Brenna works with between six and eight publishing houses at a time and fields ten or more releases every year. You can reach her at her site http://www.brennalyons.com

Thanks so much for the informative posts, Brenna! If anyone has any questions just ask them in the comments section.

Pros and Cons of Writing for Different Publishers (part one)

I’m a member of the Marketing for Romance Writers loop. There’s a wealth of knowledge available in this group, mainly promo and marketing advice but there are also discussions about other writing related things such as publishers. Late last year the subject of writing for different publishers was raised. Author Brenna Lyons had such awesome advice about the pros and cons that I asked if she’d write a post for me on the subject. Over to Brenna…

Pros and Cons of Writing for Different Publishers (part one) by Brenna Lyons

Why do it?

All I Want For Christmas by Brenna LyonsYou’re a prolific author– It is possible to overload the system of a single publisher, if you submit everything you write to that one. Can you imagine the havoc that could cause with a prolific author?

You write in several genres– It’s a solid fact that authors who write in many genres may not be able to place all of their books with a single house. If you sign with a publisher for your fantasy erotic romance books and then you write a straight fantasy book, that publisher is likely not your market.

To work with publishers/authors/editors you enjoy– This is not my favorite reason to change or add publishers, but some people do choose publishers this way. For me, it is more important that I think the people I will be working with know what they are doing, are pleasant (or at least tolerable) to work with, and have a smooth-running system that I feel will work well for me.

Getting in on special collections or projects– This is actually a good reason to join a publisher…if your other concerns are met as well. Think of it this way. Even if it’s the collection you think is perfect for you, if the contract and staff are far less than ideal, you are better off taking your personal ideas elsewhere. Remember that this is your career!

A new concept or contract option that you enjoy– Unfortunately, some authors are so dead-set on making sure a particular thing is addressed at their next company that they allow themselves to be blinded to the less savory aspects of the company they target. You have to keep the full package in mind. It is typically easier to convince company B to add something you want than to convince company D to change half a contract that you don’t like to suit you, just because it already has that one item covered.

In addition, a new concept in publishing is good…if it works. Keep in mind that many of the more radical designs don’t last very long. A company that gives you 75% of cover price sounds great…until you find out that you won’t be able to sell a quarter of the books you did with your old publisher.

The pros to having more than one publisher?

Reaching new readers who haven’t read you before– There is no denying that you will likely reach some readers at the new company who are not regular buyers of the old one. However, while some readers buy a company, many readers buy the author. That means that, once introduced to you, the readers are typically willing to follow you from publisher to publisher…as long as they are comfortable with the publisher sites…or they follow you to one-stop places like ARe/OmniLit or Fictionwise, where they can buy books from you with several publishers at once.

Name building at double or triple the speed…maybe– This sounds good in theory. But while it is true that you are reaching more readers, there is typically an overflow of readers that read both houses…or one company may have a large audience while another is new and has a small one. You can’t count on doubling your publishers meaning that your double the readers who know you.

Less wait time for editors/release date…maybe– You may very well reduce your wait overall, since you are waiting editors at several publishers, so you can get four books through in the time you might have gotten one or two through at a single publisher. However, you may lengthen your wait on a particular book.

Not being pigeonholed into one genre or style– This is one of the most widely-stated reasons for people choosing to have more than one publisher.

The cons to having more than one publisher?

Planning ahead to fulfill your contracts– You have to keep an eye on what you agree to do and when. If you have three books coming in for edits, you better have everything out of your way and be prepared for some long nights and days getting those edits done in the 30 days you have to do all three! And, you don’t want to burn out.

The “Prolific Trap”– When you’re prolific, you often get contacted by your publishers saying things like, “We have X going on. You’ll put something into that, right?” This is where you get into an interesting balancing act. Do you say “I can’t” and get on a publisher’s bad side? Do you say “yes” and figure out a way to make it happen? That depends on your comfort level.

Glutting the market on your name– It is possible to put out so many books that the readers can’t keep up…or don’t want to keep up. At what point do the readers’ eyes glaze over? The problem is that there is no set number I can give you. If you write really well, that glut may not come for a long time.

Expectations of publishers– Your publishers have certain expectations of their authors. The problem comes when you either have conflicting schedules…you should be in chat with B at the same time C is doing a list game you should be taking part in…or you are get used to the expectations for one and have problems changing gears.

Keeping your mind in the game: which publisher is which– You could make a file of printouts or a database of guidelines and house styles a prerequisite for having more than one publisher. Worse, it’s easy to start resenting one company for not being more like another. You can suggest changes gently, but if they don’t want to change, you either have to live with it quietly or not sign them any more books. You are under no obligation to stay with a company that doesn’t offer what you need as an author PAST what you have already contracted.

Arranging SOME crossover readership to aid in the transition– You want to find new readers, but you also need the old readers following you along and bringing new readers with them by word of mouth. Having some distribution channels or promotion channels that overlap is a wonderful thing.

The “Leave your other publisher at the door” problem– Imagine a well-meaning reader or reviewer congratulates you on an award finaled for with a publisher on the wrong list…or someone mentions a series from publisher B in publisher C’s chat. Though it is beyond your control, and no matter how skillfully you handle it, it will still be held against you to a certain degree.

Come back for part two tomorrow.

Brenna Lyons is a bestselling, award-winning author in spec fic indie press. With 21 series worlds and stand-alones, it’s not a surprise that Brenna works with between six and eight publishing houses at a time and fields ten or more releases every year. You can reach her at her site http://www.brennalyons.com

A White Box

A book is a sum of things—characters, setting and description, dialogue, pace and plot. It’s the combination of all of these elements, done in the right way that makes a book exciting and sought after by readers.

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It takes a lot of work to get a book to a standard that’s saleable. My first drafts are like white boxes. People inhabit the white box—my characters that is, but they’re quiet and in shock from the lack of scenery. It’s all white in there, after all.

During the first stages, my characters are a bit superficial and half the time they have no idea what they’re doing, what their purpose is in the box. It’s almost like the first run through of a play where the cast are strangers and feeling their way into their parts.

It’s during the second and third run through that I add the color and turn my white box into a real world, complete with real people. Adding setting and description is a skill I’ve fought to learn—it certainly doesn’t come naturally.

Not so long ago, it was normal to read very flowery descriptions in books. These days descriptions in fiction are briefer and spare at times.

Here’s a paragraph from Powder and Patch by Georgette Heyer.

The Apparition wore a coat of the palest apricot cloth, with a flowered vest of fine brocade, and startling white small-clothes. Red-heeled shoes were on his feet, and his stockings were adorned by sprawling golden clocks. He carried an amber-clouded can and a jeweled snuff-box, while ever and anon he raised a cobwebby handkerchief to his aristocratic nose. He minced down the street towards the market-place, followed by the awestricken glances of an amazed population.

That’s a lot of description for one person, although I have to say I’d love to see him in person. You probably won’t find this amount of description in a modern romance, not focused on one person. We’re more likely to add it in more sparingly in bits and pieces.

This snippet is taken from Dark Lover by JR Ward.

When she was finished with the Twinkie, she flipped open her phone, hit speed dial, and put in an order for beef with broccoli. As she walked along, she looked at the familiar, grim landmarks. Along this stretch of Trade Street, there were only bars, strip clubs, and the occasional tattoo parlor. The Chinese food place and the Tex-Mex buffet were the only two restaurants. The rest of the buildings, which had been used as offices in the twenties, when downtown had been thriving, were vacant. She knew every crack in the sidewalk; she could time the traffic lights. And the patois of sounds drifting out of open doors and windows offered no surprises either.

With this paragraph, we get a little characterization along with a feel for the neighborhood. We learn that although the district is run down, the place is home for our heroine.

In another book, that shall remain nameless, the description of a room sounded like a shopping list. It mentioned an antique rug, hardwood floors, a Victorian sofa and the color of the brocade, a coffee table and the type of wood, the silver tea service on top, two Victorian chairs, a gas fireplace, silver-framed photo frames, the photos inside them, the mantelpiece, a cherry and glass counter and quite a few other things.

The actual story wasn’t too bad, but this description, done list style, made me roll my eyes. I’ve edited the list quite a bit. The descriptions took up over half a page.

What I try to do is show the character experiencing the setting, give sensory details. I show them walking across a thick carpet and wondering if their shoes are going to get lost in the pile or holding out their hands to catch snowflakes, feeling the cold and dampness or tasting it melt on their tongue. They might notice the cars buried in snow or hear the chains on the tires as they fight for purchase. I try to involve the character’s senses of sight, touch, taste, smell and hearing to make the description come alive.

Here’s a paragraph taken from Tea For Two by Shelley Munro

“I see a line of dots.” Hayley Williams peered solemnly into her customer’s white china teacup. Outside her colorful curtain-partitioned area of the tea tent, children shrieked with excitement as they lined up for the Ferris wheel and merry-go-round. Her assistant chatted to one of the ladies in charge of the tea, extolling the high points of a reading by Madam Deveraux. Somewhere in the distance, a toddler howled and a brass band played “Rock Around the Clock”. Closer, touts shouted spasmodically about the exciting things available at their stalls. The clatter of china and the muted gossip of the ladies in the makeshift café added to the cacophony of fairground sounds.

For me this is actually quite a long description, but I hope it plops you right in the middle of a fairground.

When it comes to describing characters, I’m typically very brief because as a reader, I like to imagine myself as the heroine. If there’s too much description I think it gets in the way of my imagination. Just a brief hair color, eyes, build etc is all I need. You might think differently.

How much description do you like to read in your books? Do you like lots of description or a bare minimum? Do you like detailed description of characters? And writers: what approach do you use when it comes to description? Do you have a white box like me or is your world colorful from the start?