Writing When You Have a Day Job

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If you’ve been seeing tumbleweeds and gusts of wind blowing across the website over the last couple of years, you might have guessed I’ve been a bit busy in my “real life”. Since beginning my publishing endeavors in August of 2012, my life has changed almost entirely. I went through several family tragedies all in a row and experienced a devastating personal loss just last summer. All of that PLUS the fact that my day job has really picked up means I have less time for writing.

 

I think many of you may be in the same boat. How can you be a dedicated writer AND still maintain your busy family life and day-job-work schedule? I’m here to give you a few tried and true tips as well as some things that have not worked for me.

 

“Easy reading is damn hard writing.”
~ Nathaniel Hawthorne

 

I hope these tips will be of use to you, but if you’ve found something different that motivates you to keep up with writing and publishing please share with us!

 

HOW TO KEEP UP A WRITING PRACTICE WITH A DAY JOB:

 

// Study the craft. // Seriously. If you want to be more efficient with your writing, you need to get your nose into some writing craft books and find what does and what does not work for your particular style of writing. If you’ve formerly been a pantser, find out how to become a planner (at least a tiny planner) so that when you finally get some butt-in-chair time, you can make the most of it (since it will most likely be limited). One of the books that CHANGED MY LIFE was 2k to 10k by Rachel Aaron. I’m not kidding, that book illustrates beautifully how to plan out each part of your story (while still maintaining your creative freedom) and I saw some serious increases in my word-count at the end of my writing sessions. Get it. It will help you!!

 

// Set goals in terms of word-counts, not necessarily days. // Don’t kid yourself, you WILL have days when there is just too much day-job work and too little time for writing. You might work late and then still have to get food on your table and/or spend time with relatives. Some days, you just won’t be able to write. It’s a fact. Emergencies happen. Spontaneous things happen. Instead of putting that pressure on yourself to write every single day, give yourself a weekly word-count goal instead. That will work well for you while drafting. If you’re on the re-writing, editing, polishing phase of a novel-in-progress, set a weekly work time goal. This way, if you simply can’t get to writing on that Tuesday when your pipes burst in your house and you’re presenting to the board of directors about a do-or-die proposal…don’t sweat it. You can make it up later.

 

// If you’re draft isn’t fun and exciting to write, go back to the drawing board. // Since you’ve probably worked a long day by the time you sit down to write (or maybe you woke up at 4 am to get some butt-in-chair time before work), don’t write something that is boring to you. Write stories that excite you and make you thirst for more. You want your readers to love the story…you should love it, too. I’m certainly more motivated to make time to write a story with characters and a plot I’m thrilled about.

 

// Read books that make you want to write. // For me, this happens to be terrific fantasy fiction. There are some seriously amazing authors out there who continually inspire me to keep my head in the game and keep working hard at this whole writing thing. Juliet Marillier, Lindsay Buroker, C.S. Lewis, Diana Wynn Jones…the list is endless, really. When I’m feeling down about my writing, I pull out a great book and by the end of it, my zeal for my own characters and stories has blossomed again.

 

THINGS THAT DON’T WORK WELL FOR WRITERS WITH DAY JOBS:

 

// Unhealthy comparisons. // I think it is wise and can be helpful to compare your craft with someone else’s. HOWEVER, you should not be doing so as a means of berating and beating yourself up. It’s easy to look at someone’s work and say, “Oh, poor me, I’ll never be as good a writer as ________…” but is that really helpful? NO! What would be better is to look at what that writer does well and figure out why. Why do you want to keep turning the pages of that novel? Perhaps that writer uses a great hook technique or has a fast-moving plot. Use comparison in a healthy way and let it inspire you to develop your own craft. Don’t compare yourself to others just to fuel your own insecurity.

 

// Setting unrealistic goals. // If you have a busy day job, it is probably naive to think you’ll publish five books this year (unless you are insanely prolific and efficient–which, if you are, ‘GRATS). Instead of putting unrealistic expectations on yourself, work hard at being intentional with your goals and take into account all that you have going on. Use your calendar and schedule to help you set realistic and achievable writing and publishing goals.

 

// Writing in isolation. // You’ve got enough to do with a busy day job and social/family life. Don’t write in a vacuum. Send your drafts out to beta readers and a real editor so that you can get some honest, valuable feedback on your work. Use their notes to help you efficiently make your novel the best it can be. Using time wisely means managing your revisions, re-writes, and edits in an skillful manner. Invite people you trust to help you. It takes a village, folks.

 

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I hope this post was helpful to you. I realize, of course, that every writer is different and what works for one person may not work for another. Share your own writing tips for those of us who have day jobs!

 

~LMS

 

** Come “hang out” with me on Twitter and Facebook! If you haven’t read any of my books but you love fantasy and sci-fi novels, consider giving my free novel Night Bells a try, or check me out on Wattpad! I love connecting with readers! **

Check Out “The Queen’s Twelfth Consort”!

TQTC_FINALRGBMy new book, The Queen’s Twelfth Consort, is now available in ebook form at Amazon! Print will soon follow.

If you love Asian-inspired fantasy stories with a steampunk flare (there are so many of those around, right?) then you are sure to love TQTC! It is the first book in my new series The Koryan Chonicles!

I hope you’ll give it a shot. It is currently $2.99, but if you wait around until tomorrow (November 25th), it will be on sale for FREE in honor of the Thanksgiving holiday! This FREE sale will run until Saturday, November 29, so get your copy while the price is reduced. After that time passes, it will return to $2.99. :)

Here is the blurb:

When Han invaders overtake his palace home, the last thing Prince Armstad of Aldiin wants to do is flee the battle to protect himself. Unfortunately, that is exactly what his father, King Amsor, has ordered him to do. In an escape that leaves him wounded and without protection, Armstad rushes into the desert that separates his country from the northern kingdom of Ambul. The Queen of Ambul promises to keep him safe, but her protection is unlike any Armstad expected. As the entire continent is pulled into war with the power-hungry Hans, all Armstad can think about is managing his new life with Queen Eri Sun…and staying alive.

The Queen’s Twelfth Consort is appropriate for young adult and adult readers. It is approximately 79,000 words.

Want to read more? Purchase your Kindle copy here!

Happy reading!

I’m Prepping for a Book Launch

So, I’m out of practice with this whole blogging thing. It’s not really something I can keep up consistently, if I’m being completely honest with myself. However, I figured with a new book coming out in (hopefully) a few days, I figured I better not be such a ghost around here.

I’m waiting to reveal the cover and title information until I’ve actually hit the Big Button, but I can tell you that I’m trying some new tricks with this release. First off, I’ve finally taken the advice of so many other authors and put together a newsletter. Subscribe if you’d like new release information and promotions on books.

Second, I’m going KDP Select with this book and most likely the series (at least for a little while). I’m curious about how Kindle Unlimited will affect sales. I also like trying new things and since I’m not completely dependent on my writing for my income, I have a bit more flexibility in hopping on new bandwagons.

Thirdly, I not only have professional editing for this title, but I also have professional cover art! This is seriously exciting. Cannot WAIT to reveal this beautiful, beautiful cover!

I’m very excited about this book. It was definitely a labor of love and I cannot wait to explore these characters further in subsequent books. I’ll be back in the next few days with the cover reveal, title and blurb information, and hopefully sale links!

Thanks for sticking with me on this journey! I hope you enjoy the new read. :)

~LMS

So, I Hopped on the Newsletter Train…

I know, I know, this is horribly overdue for an author who’s had published novels out for nearly two years now…

I waited to do the newsletter until I had really researched it and figured out what exactly I wanted to do with it. If you subscribe, I promise not to spam you with weekly writing updates or other obnoxious correspondences. You can follow me on Twitter and Facebook for those sorts of things, ;). If you subscribe to my newsletter you’ll receive an email every 1-3 months about new release information, occasional promotional details, and other book related news. I greatly appreciate your readership and would love to stay connected!

Sign up below or use the form on my sidebar. :)

 

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Why Do You Write? Why Do You Publish?

Really think about this. If you’re a published author (indie or otherwise), why do you publish your books? Why not just write them for the joy of it and move on? Why go the extra mile and rewrite, edit, send it to beta readers, procure cover art, and hit the big button?

Over the last year, I haven’t published a thing. I really needed to reconnect with my writing and answer the big questions: Why do I write? and Why do I publish? It wasn’t easy. As you can see, the last time I published something was in March 2013. I suffered a pretty nasty recurring writer’s block that lasted for months at a time and kept me from believing in myself. So, during all that down time, I tried to really reflect on those two questions.

Here’s Why I Write:

After intense introspection, I remembered the real reason why I write: I love it.

That’s it.

Writing is a passion for me. I adore building worlds and creating lovable characters. I love spending hours creating language sets for imaginary cultures. I could spend days immersed in a story.

For me, writing is a beloved treasure.

When I thought about publishing, the reasons were more mixed.

Here’s Why I Publish:

Publishing was a a bit harder for me. At first, I think I honestly wanted to publish in order to gain recognition, make a living, and feel validated in my work. After sales were slow and my marketing efforts didn’t yield the results I wanted, I grew discouraged. I had to really adjust my attitude about why I published.

So, I found that the real reason I want to publish is to share my stories with others. I love it when my Wattpad readers connect with me and tell me their favorite parts. I love connecting with other writers who enjoy their craft as much as I do.

In other words, my desire to publish is to become a part of a larger artistic community dedicated to writing and reading great stories.

So, why do you write and publish? I’d love to hear your own thoughts!

Did you have to go through a “dark night of the writer’s soul” to arrive at your own reasons? Share your journey with us in the comments!

As always, happy writing!

~L.M.

Doubling My Word Counts!

So, I know I’ve been MIA on my blog over the last year or so, but I wanted to check in and let you know what I’ve been up to. I’ve been writing! WOOHOO! Yes, indeed, I have plans to publish possibly two things before the end of the year, but at least one thing. I read Rachel Aaron’s 2K to 10K about a month ago and it has revolutionized my world. As you may have gathered from older blog posts, I sort of have a problem of being a super-pantser (i.e., never really planned further than the first few chapters). Because I have a day job that demands a lot of time time, I knew I needed to make the most of my limited writing time.

Aaron’s book discusses the importance of laying a firm foundation for your writing  before you start and the necessity for roughly planning exactly what you plan to write during each session. Since using her method, every time I’ve written, I’ve been excited, productive, and happier than ever. I’ve always been able to crank out about 2,000 words on average during my writing sessions (usually writing between and hour and an hour and a half). Since using Aaron’s method, I’ve be getting close to 5,000 in about 2 hours (give or take).

The new book I’m working on is so much fun (in my humble opinion). It’s got a mix of genres and I am loving the unusual world that’s forming around the characters. I’m not quite ready to release information about the title and such, but there will be more information coming soon. I am still working on the rough draft, but at this rate, I hope to have it done by the end of August.

If you’re struggling with getting your word counts in when you’re balancing a day job, family, and a social calendar, I would *highly* recommend Aaron’s book. It’s only $.99 and it is WELL worth the read!!

Happy writing,

~L.M.

My first book, Night Bells, is getting some attention with YA readers on Wattpad! Check it out!

When Manuscripts Give You Endless Troubles

Sorry for my blogging absence (again…). It’s becoming more and more difficult to squeeze blogging into my very busy schedule. Since taking on lots more contract work (thank goodness!!), my free time is limited for this sort of thing. As well, my host has been having some issues and my site has actually been experiencing problems lately. I apologize for the inconvenience. Still, I want to keep you all apprised of what I’ve got going on. I am hard at work on the third Tale from Niflheim, don’t you worry. It’s actually that manuscript that I’d like to talk about today.

I don’t typically discuss my works-in-progress very often. They’re messy and filled with perils of their own and it can produce odd feelings within to talk about them with others. I think, however, that sharing my struggles with my current draft might be of some use to other writers out there, so here we are. My issues with this project began last year. I published Silent Shades (the sequel to Night Bells) in the fall of 2012, shortly after publishing the first book in the series. I worked on some other projects, but then got back to working on the third book. When I tell you that I felt like I was running uphill with a bag of rocks on my back, I don’t mean to over-exaggerate. This book has been the toughest book I’ve ever worked on.

I soon needed another break from the third book and began work on other stories. I also published a novella called The Dark Ship in early 2013. I had every intention of plowing through the third Niflheim book and then releasing it sometime in 2013. AND then real life happened. A lot of real life. I won’t go into details, but suffice it to say that I was given many, many opportunities for growth last year and that many of them took up all of my attention, strength, and emotional reservoir. My writing suffered. My other passions suffered. I fell into a deep writers block that seemed like it would never end.

At the end of 2013, I was bound and determined to get my writing back into the productive-zone and I pulled out the third Niflheim book. It was still hard. The manuscript was a mess, full of holes, clunky prose, awkward dialogue, and poorly envisioned scenes. As well, I had a mountain of rewrites to get through just to make the first draft make sense. I also had to finish the darn thing (which I haven’t yet). Since (let’s be honest) writing doesn’t pay the bills for me yet, I realized that I don’t have as much time pressure to publish as other authors do. It’s already been awhile since I’ve published anything, so I know I’m kind of “out of the public eye” at the moment.

I don’t say all of that to wallow in self-pity. On the contrary, I think it’s a great thing! I’ve decided to fully focus on my craft; on the fun of writing; on my characters. NOT on the publishing aspect or the marketing. Those things are important and are definitely relevant to the self-published author’s life, but it’s not as important to me as enjoying what I do. I want writing to remain a passion in my life and because of that, I have pursued other means of employment to keep myself occupied and to keep food on the table. 😉

I suppose I should get back to the main point of this post, however, and discuss my process for dealing with a troublesome manuscript. *Ahem*, here we go:

1. Take a break, but only a short one. // I didn’t tuck tail and run at the first sign of trouble in this manuscript, but after several had worn me out and sucked all my zeal for the project, I did decide to take a break and work on other stories. It was refreshing, allowed me to keep up my practice of the craft, and enabled me to keep my brain active in the story-telling process.

2. When you jump back in, READ THE MANUSCRIPT. // I know this may be an obvious tip, but it can sometimes be hard to read through a mess of a draft and make sense of it. Do it, though, because you’ll be able to pick up the threads you want to keep and weed out the plot lines or characters that don’t make any sense. Make copious notes for yourself about things you’d like to tweak, change, keep, or get rid of entirely. It will make continuing your draft a lot better and help you plan a little bit (if you’re a pantser like me).  

3. Work on coherency. // I’m a big believer that first drafts should make sense. If you’ve got all kinds of rats’ nests in there and things just aren’t meshing well, WORK THAT CRAP OUT. It can take a really long time. I’ve done several rewrites on this draft just so that I can get a coherent story out of it before I finish it up. It’s grueling work and it can easily burn you out, so be sure to read a lot of fun books during this time to keep your faith in writing and also work on other projects at the same time if you need to.

4. Chin up. Writing is hard for everyone. You are no exception. // This is something I often forget. I tend to imagine all the other awesome authors living on clouds with rainbows and sparkles all around them when they’re sitting there tumbling out the words. That’s not how it works. Sure, some authors may be insanely more prolific than others, but just like you those authors are working hard at their writing. Besides, what do you care if another writer has it easier than you? You can’t know that (a) and, besides, comparison is the thief of joy (b). Worry about your own work and be positive. Be your own biggest fan.

5. Keep going, even when you just want to quit. // There have honestly been times when I thought about shelving this story for good. My love for these characters, however, have kept me going. Someone has to tell their story, or they’ll remain forever in my own head. As well, it warms my heart to no end when I hear people asking about the third book and when they can expect it. That alone is enough to keep me going when it gets tough.

This manuscript is still a hot mess. I still have plenty of rewriting to attend to before I can even think about finishing the book, but I know that it’ll all get done. I have no idea when I’ll be finished. I’m not going to put that pressure on myself. I am, however, going to pressure myself to keep going when the going gets rough. I’m going to think positively and be my own fan again. Writing used to be a passion for me. Characters and scenes would pester me when I was trying to sleep at night. Though I’m still sort of in a slump when it comes to my author’s enthusiasm, I’m determined to get the spark back; even if I have to get flint and tender and create it myself.

Happy writing, happy reading until we “meet” again.

Meet My New Writing “Buddy”!

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This is “Buddy”. He is a two year old parakeet that has stolen my pet-loving heart! We adopted him almost two weeks ago and he fills our home with beauty, pretty chirrups, and entertainment. Those of you who have followed my blog for a while know how hard it was for me when my rats passed away in the summer. I loved them SO much and when they died, a little bit of me did, too. Pets can be so, so comforting in life and they provide humans with an opportunity to be selfless, caring, nurturing, and responsible.

I know many writers have dogs or cats, and don’t get me wrong–I LOVE cats especially, but I’m a big fan of “exotic” type pets. Rodents and birds are particular favorites of mine. I am so happy to have a happy little singing creature sitting nearby while I work on my stories. He’s great company and when I need a break from work, he’s right there waiting to be loved on and talked to. He’s not quite tame yet, but we’re getting there. His previous family didn’t have a ton of time to spend with him, so he’s still getting used to all the attention (…and my voice, my hand, his new home, etc.)

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Isn’t he handsome?

Are you a pet fan? If so, do you keep your dog, cat, fish, bird, etc., nearby when you write?

Favorite Reads of 2013!

It’s hard to believe that 2013 is officially over and gone. 2014 is here and I, for one, am extremely excited about the upcoming months. I truly feel that 2014 will be a year of great stories, great writing, great publishing, and great journeys for us all. :) As I’ve been reflecting on 2013, I’ve been trying to nail down my favorite reads. I had a goal of reading 36 books and ended up making it to 33. I’m sad that I didn’t meet my goal, but to be honest I had a great deal of “real life” situations going on that made it difficult to get that reading done. So, moving on into the new year! I think I’m going to keep my goal of 36 books again. Here are my favorite reads of 2013 (in no particular order):

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1// Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis 2// Forged in Blood I & II by Lindsay Buroker 3// Sabriel by Garth Nix 4// Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins 5// Quotidian Mysteries by Kathleen Norris 6// The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom 7// Kisses from Katie by Katie Davis 8// Son of the Shadows by Juliet Marillier

Out of the 33 books that I read, these stuck with me the most. I’ll do a little mini-review of each one below.

Out of the Silent Planet

WOW. This book blew me away. It was so completely different from Lewis’ Narnia novels that at first, it took a bit of adjustment to get used to. Still, once I got the hang of the slightly different writing style and the truly unique story, things took off! If you’re looking for a new science-fiction read, look no further than this first book of the Space Trilogy. You won’t be disappointed. I can’t wait to read the sequels, Perelandra and That Hideous Strength.

Forged in Blood I & II 

This ending to the Emperor’s Edge series was INCREDIBLE. I know I’ve talked multiple times on the blog about my obsessive love for Buroker’s work so it shouldn’t surprise you that her EE opus is on my top reads for 2013 list. I devoured these books. They were so, so good and (to me) gave readers such a tremendously satisfying ending. I know she’s already hard at work on a continuance of the Emperor’s Edge  universe and I cannot WAIT to see what she comes up with next.

Sabriel 

I’ve read this book a few times now and my third (or was it my fourth…) read-through was just as magical as the others. I’m not decided on whether or not I’ll go on to read the sequels again right now. I’ve got quite a lot on my reading list for 2014 and I know I won’t be able to get to everything I’ve already got on there. :) Still, the Abhorsen series by Garth Nix is truly magnificent. It’s a great young adult fantasy series and definitely worth anyone’s time.

Catching Fire 

Definitely my favorite of Suzanne Collin’s Hunger Games trilogy, this book had so much to love!! Action, romance, tension, twists…you name it and this book probably had it. I’ll confess that I haven’t finished the third book in this series, partly because I’m finding it so different from #1 and more importantly, #2 in the series. This book was nonstop goodness and I definitely look forward to reading it again someday.

Quotidian Mysteries

This isn’t a fiction book, but I felt it needed to make the list because of how powerfully its words impacted me. Kathleen Norris speaks volumes in this short little tome about daily living and how we can find joy, peace, and meaning in the quotidian (everyday) things in our lives. Such a fantastic read and gave me so much to think about.

The Hiding Place

It’s a little sad that I never read this book growing up. It’s a bit crazy that it got past me, since I grew up in a strong Christian community. Still, reading it as an adult probably meant so much more to me. Corrie Ten Boom’s story of faith, courage, and perseverance in the face of such great evil was one of the most inspiring reads of my life.

Kisses from Katie

I read this extremely early in 2013 and it is definitely a book that will always “be” with me. Katie’s work in Africa in the midst of extreme poverty is so completely awe-inspiring that I really feel it is impossible to read her story without being completely changed by it. For anyone looking to “think outside themselves” and to find inspiration to live selflessly, RUN to get this book immediately.

Son of the Shadows

Who knows how many times I’ve read this book. I’ve seriously lost count. Juliet Marillier’s Sevenwaters trilogy is so important to me. I’m sure I will be reading her stories for the rest of my life. Over and over and over again. Liadan’s tale of hope in the midst of great darkness is impeccable. Read it. Read ALL her books. RIGHT NOW.

What are your favorite reads from 2013? I’d LOVE to hear! I’m always on the lookout for new stories. Happy 2014!

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Thanks for visiting my humble little web-home! If you’re new to the blog, I invite you to stay, hang out, and read awhile. If you’re interested in my books, give my first fantasy novel Night Bells a shot. It’s free on the Kindle, ITunes, Kobo, Nook, and Smashwords.

2013 Reading Goal Check-Up

IMG_2942Every year, I like to set a reading goal for myself to keep me accountable when it comes to devouring books. :) This year, my goal was set at 36. So far, I’ve consumed 33. Not as many as I had hoped by this time of year, but I feel confident that I can scarf down three more before the end of the year. Already, I’ve got one just a few percentage clicks from being complete and I’ve just started another one that I know will be something I don’t want to put down. I had hoped to have already reached my goal number by this time, but life gets busy. Once I’ve completed my year’s worth of reading, I’ll definitely be sure to share my favorites with you!

Reading is such a privilege. Most people don’t consider just how much of a blessing literacy is. Literacy and the ability to read, critically analyze, and think for yourself about a topic is truly a marvelous skill and one that not everyone on this earth has. Whenever I hear that people hate to read, I die a little on the inside. It’s the same feeling I get when people despise school or the chance to learn. So many of our American school children are frustrated eye-rollers about school and it makes me so sad. Education is such a gift! A GIFT! The ability we have to freely attend school, learn to read, and grow our minds is heavily under-appreciated in this country.

If you’ve never really had a knack or desire for reading, I always say, “You just haven’t found the right book or series yet.” For instance, growing up, my best friend always hated to read. Then, one day in high school she discovered the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. Since then, she has been an avid and dedicated reader–usually consuming more tomes on average that I do! That’s why I fervently believe anyone can learn to love reading. With the right story and the right writer, anyone can become a lover of the written word.

Why not set a reading goal for yourself in 2014 (if you haven’t already)? Find some new favorites in the new year! I’ll reveal my reading goal for 2014 when I do my 2013 wrap up post. :)

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! Spend some time over your break snuggled up on a couch or in a big comfy chair with some hot tea or cocoa and a great book!