Posted in Tips for Young Writers

Time Management

I’ve written about time management before. There’s no end of ideas out there about how to get more out of your time. So many in fact that I know in writing this I’m adding to the din, but I’ve been trying something new and it’s been working for me. Really, honestly, working for me.

A month ago, I decided that I needed to up my game. Not just in my writing career but in my personal life. In classic Wendy style I headed to the library and picked up a few books. I read them all and settled on the one that really stood out for me, The Five Choices of Extraordinary Productivity from Franklin Covey. I mean the name says it all. Five choices. I make a load of choices every day, I can add another five.

The five choices are:

  1. Act on the important, don’t react to the urgent
  2. Go for the extraordinary, don’t settle for the ordinary
  3. Schedule the big rocks, don’t sort the gravel
  4. Rule your technology, don’t let it rule you
  5. Fuel your fire, don’t burn out

I’m not going to summarise the entire book because there’s so much in it. I do encourage you to check it out, because time management can make a huge difference to finding time to write.

For me, acting on the important (writing, spending time with my kids, calling a friend) rather than being distracted by the urgent (what Jennifer Aniston looks like now, reorganising the spice-rack) has being really helpful. I’m very much a ‘oh, shiny’ sort of person and while that means I notice things that others don’t, it also means that I’m pulled away from meaningful tasks more than I like.

Scheduling those things that are important and getting them done, rather than drowning in the mess of things that “need” doing has also really helped me. In the book they say the first step is to identify if something is important or meaningful, and then to put it into one of four categories – either it’s a task (and goes on a list), an appointment (and goes in your diary), a contact (and is added to your contacts) or a note (and is filed with other notes for easy access).

I’m still working on getting a handle on my technology, but I have to say that I’ve managed to organise my inbox which is really the modern-day equivalent of climbing Everest (I bet all those mountain climbers have overflowing inboxes).

I’m certainly not saying this is the only or best system out there, but it’s a system that I’ve found easy to implement. As with all time-management systems, there is an element of discipline at play. While I’ schedule a walk at 11:30, it’s still up to me to make sure I take it. That said, if you’re finding it difficult to find time to write, it might be worth looking into. And it’s a fairly easy read, so you could probably read it and watch TV at the same time.

Don’t be fooled. There’s always time for TV.

Posted in Tips for Young Writers

The Doubt Demon

Doubt. Everyone, in every job, experiences it. In some jobs doubt can be fatal – ideally your brain surgeon won’t be in the clutches of the Doubt Demon when she looks down on your grey-matter – but in writing it’s only fatal to your confidence.

That’s fine, you know doubt isn’t going to kill you, but it still keeps you up at night and makes your stomach roll over when you approach your keyboard. So, what do you do?

The first thing I do is google such heart-warming phrases as, ‘when should you pull the plug on your dream’ and ‘how long does it take to become a dental nurse’. This is a waste of time but at least I feel like I have options. I can walk away from writing; the world won’t end. There are options out there for me, I’m a capable and multi-skilled person.

Then, I do the useful stuff. I reach out to my critique partners, writers on FB groups I’m a part of and chat with my husband (who gives the best advice). I step away from what I’m working on (which is usually what’s raising the doubts) and look at my other work. Writing both young adult and picture books helps because they’re so different. Young adult tends to be very issue based, where as picture books are across the spectrum from deep issues to light and fun. Swapping from one to the other can help to break the conflict going on in my brain.

You won’t be the first person to doubt their ability, drive or ideas. Doubt is a part of life. God knows I don’t just have doubts about my writing career. I have doubts about everything from parenting to adulting to driving. But it is possible to work through our doubts and, when we do, we’re one step closer to success.

Posted in Blog

NYC Midnight

I’m a big fan of flash fiction. I love writing the stories for Two-Sentence Tuesday (if you’d like to contribute your own two-sentence story, contact me) and I recently took part in the NYC Midnight flash fiction challenge. I had never done a writing challenge before, but I saw an ad for the NYC challenge on Instagram and thought, “Why not give it a go?”

The NYC challenge is broken into four rounds, with each entrant guaranteed to participate in the first two. Entrants are divided into groups and at a specified time (midnight US time) and date you’re sent a genre, location and object that you must include in your 1000-word story, then you have 48 hours to write and submit that story. The top fifteen stories in each group are awarded points – 15 points for first, 1 point for fifteenth. After the first two rounds, the top five entrants for each group move on to round three, while the others are finished for the competition.

I didn’t move on to round three but I did make it into the top fifteen for my group in both rounds, which I was so excited about (and genuinely not expecting). The real prize from participating was the detailed feedback on my writing from three different judges. Although it’s unlikely that I would return to those stories, they highlighted strengths and weaknesses that I see time and again in my longer work.

I don’t know a lot about NYC Midnight, but they seem to offer a variety of competitions throughout the year. I would definitely give it another go, and if you’ve been thinking about entering more competitions, I would recommend looking out for one of theirs.

After all, there’s nothing like a tight deadline to get those creative juices flowing.

Posted in Tips for Young Writers

Gadget-Man (or Woman)

As modern writers we are incredibly lucky to have a wide range of programs and gadgets designed to help us get our stories from our brains and onto the page. No hand cramp for us. Or messy type-writer ribbon. If writing a 90,000-word novel by hand doesn’t make you shiver, imagine editing it by hand. Yikes.

The downside of having all these writing gadgets is know which one to choose, if you choose any at all. There are still plenty of authors who go the pen and paper route all the time.

While I haven’t used all the available writing tools out there, I use WriteWay and Word myself, I do have some tips on things to keep in mind when considering a new writing tool.

1.Ease of Use

Is it user-friendly? Can you get the basic idea of how to use it without having to go through long tutorials? Is it intuitive? Does it use those basic short-cut keys that you’ve grown used to in other apps (ctrl+c, ctrl+v for example)? Is it easy to move text, scenes or even whole chapters, around?

2. Back-up

Does it allow you to easily back your work up either in the cloud or to external storage, or both, quickly and easily? There’s nothing quite like the feeling of realising you’ve just lost half your novel and there’s no way to retrieve it.

3. Cross-Compatibility

Can you export your work to other apps quickly and easily? For example, from Word to Google Docs, or from your particular app to Word.

5. Is it Affordable

Personally, I much prefer to pay a one-off price than a monthly or yearly subscription, but that’s just me. What’s important is that you choose a program or tool that sits comfortably within your budget – writing is one of those fields where the expense of a tool doesn’t directly affect the quality of the work.

6.Does it Address a Problem You Have?

There’s no point getting an app that promises you a distraction free environment, when you don’t have a problem with distractions. Or allows you to divide your work into Acts, when you exclusively write poetry. Apps and gadgets need to make your life easier, otherwise what’s the point?

As I mentioned, I use WriteWay (which my husband bought me right at the beginning of my writing journey) and Word. I’m not endorsing them over any other program, they’re just the apps that work for me and make it easier for me to create. And that’s the most important thing. There’s no point having a whizz-bang app if you’re not sitting down and creating with it.

Posted in Blog

Election Love and Hate

On Saturday Australia held it’s federal elections. If you’re not Australian you might not be familiar with how this works. Voting is compulsory – if you are 18 or older you are expected to enroll to vote (most people do) and if you are enrolled to vote you are required to attend the voting place, have your name checked off the list, and post your voting papers into the appropriate cardboard box (we have a bicameral system, so we vote for members of a lower and upper house). If, in between having your name checked off and putting the sheets of paper into the box, you also want to step into a private booth and vote, you can do that. You don’t have to. But, while you’re there, why not.

Voting is anonymous. Voting is also based on preference rather than first-past-the-post. Therefore, you don’t just vote for who you most want to win, you also say who your second, third, fourth (and so on) choice would be, if you first choice doesn’t get enough votes.

Indonesia is the worlds biggest democracy. America is, perhaps, the most famous, but personally (and with obvious bias) I think Australia is the best.

That said, I was a lot more excited about voting when I was in my 20s. Now, I’m much more disillusioned, not just by the politicians who speak in rhetoric and tell lies and half-truths, but also by the vitriol and recriminations that appear around election time. The idea that, if someone doesn’t vote the way you would vote they must be an idiot, is offensive to me. My parents, for example, are intelligent, well read and engaged people. So am I. We didn’t vote the same way. That doesn’t make either of us less intelligent. It makes us human.

My husband and I hardly ever vote the same way. So far, we’ve avoided a divorce.

I think the thing I like least is the labeling. All political parties have numerous policies on numerous issues. Some of those policies even conflict (they think we don’t notice). Unless you are a rusted on supporter of a party, it’s unlikely that you won’t have to weigh up priorities and make compromises when you vote. But, when we label people Left or Right, liberal (small ‘l’ liberal) or conservative, or anything else, we ignore this.

I think labeling works well for objects. I don’t think it works well for people. People are like tomatoes. Are they a fruit? A vegetable? Both?

All that said, being able to vote – a right and a duty that people died for me to have – fills me with pride. And, with each election, I am refilled with hope that the people elected will take all Australia’s people towards a brighter future. It remains to be seen, of course.

If all else fails – we’ll have another crack at it in four years.

Posted in Blog

Good Morning

I’m a morning person. Morning, in my opinion, is the best time of the day. It’s also my most productive part of the day. I achieve more between eight and ten in the morning than I can in the whole of the afternoon.

That said, before I had kids my mornings were much more restful. When I was in my last years of high school I was up at 5 to study and complete homework. I would turn my tiny heater on, pop my ear-buds in, and work away. This continued until I started to share my bed full time, then I found the other person under the doona wasn’t keen on loosing his living hot water bottle. And besides, it’s nicer to sleep-in when someone’s giving you a cuddle.

Now, when I drag myself out of bed at 6, there’s already two little people up. They seem to start the day like horses start a race. There’s no time for a gentle cup of tea and a perusal of the paper. They have questions, demands, they’re hungry and simultaneously too sick to go to school.

And on the weekend, they watch people play Minecraft. I miss watching actual cartoons, with characters and a storyline. Now I get to watch (usually) young men explain how to make a portal to the Nether (did I spell that right? If you’re interested, you need lots of obsidian blocks and a steel and flint). I know you-tubers like Poet and MC Naveed. Theoretically I could go sit somewhere else but I like to be with my kids (especially on the weekends) and I like to know what they’re watching, because not everything on the internet is suitable (I know. I was shocked too).

But, it does make mornings much louder and prone to zombie attack then they were when I was younger.

I suppose, though, the day will come when they’ll want stay in bed until lunch and I’ll have my mornings back to myself.

I’m not sure I’m actually looking forward to that.

Posted in Blog

The Unsociablity of Social Media

Apparently ‘unsociablity’ isn’t a word. But ‘unsociable’ is and ‘sociability’ is so I’m just combining them. It’s probably an unfair thing to say, anyway. I find social media unsociable but clearly millions of people don’t.

It is overwhelming. I can’t be the only one who feels that. This year I’m trying to get on top of my use of social media. I visited a social media consultant, Media Tribe, who were brilliant, because I know that social media is a key tool in any author’s toolbox. This is my job, not my hobby, and thus I need to make use of means of marketing that other authors use.

Continue reading “The Unsociablity of Social Media”
Posted in Blog

It’s All About Faith

Are you over your chocolate hangover? Or are you still finding foil wrappers tucked in the couch cushions? Of course, this only applies if you actually celebrate Easter. For those of you who don’t, be kind to your friends and colleagues who are wandering around with wide eyes and a sugar high that will last the rest of the week.

Of course, many of these Easter refugees won’t actually be practising Christians. I wonder, now, if there are more people following Christian tradition because it’s, well, traditional, than because they actually want to commemorate the death of Christ. To be honest, over recent years, I’ve begun to wonder if I fall more into this category too.

Has God been judged, and found wanting?

And, does it matter? For me it does. Isn’t it hypocritical to go through the motions of Christian tradition, if you’re no longer sure of your faith? I have no answer for these questions (please enlighten me if you do) but I’m irritated that I didn’t leave the existential angst behind in my moody teens (I wasn’t actually that moody, but you know what I mean).

I know, I know. This is too deep for a Monday. I’m sorry. Blame it on the chocolate.

Posted in Blog

Home, Away, Home Again

We’ve been away. The thing about going away is, no matter how wonderful the trip, it’s always such a relief to get home. I don’t know if it’s the journey, or the strange bed or the rich food but being away is always more draining to be at home and it certainly makes me appreciate my own little corner of the world.

Our trip this time was to South Australia, a state I’d never visited before. We spent time with my younger brother, visited Hahndorf (which apparently was the first settlement set up for non-English settlers) and saw the pandas at the zoo. It’s the first time I’ve ever seen pandas in real life so I was thrilled. The place we stayed was very close to the water, so we had a lot of long walks on the beach.

And despite all that, I am so glad to be home again.

Posted in Blog

What the Wrestling Can Teach You

My husband loves the wrestling. As in, incredibly athletic men and women inside a ring pretending to fight in the most spectacular way. Wrestling may be fake (please, don’t look so shocked) but I have no doubt the talent and endurance (and injuries) of the performers is completely real.

I don’t mind the wrestling either, but the thing I love most is the stories. The writers are masters of conflict and tension (for a great article on conflict, check out this post on Writers in the Storm). The stakes are always epic, the rivalries are always intense, and the characters walk through ever shifting shades of grey. These characters don’t just want to win (we all want to win), they’re willing to do anything to win. Coz, let’s face it, the writers need to create characters that people don’t just like, they need to write characters who’s t-shirt people want to wear.

I assume that’s why my husband has those shirts, anyway.