The Page a Day Writers Group

Posts Tagged ‘writing schedule

Everyday I wake up thinking how I can best slice my 24-hour pie. A myriad of tasks stream through my mind including how to deepen my main character, amp up the tension of a scene, why there so many calories in lemon olive oil. I jump out of bed convinced that all the “to-dos” in my head will magically become “to-dones” by the end of the day. A fantasy rarely achieved.

But as John Lennon sang: Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.

The car won’t start. The dog is hacking. An article deadline looms and a key resource hasn’t returned my email. Spin life’s wheel and each day you can substitute “life happenings” pre-empting coveted writing time. Surprisingly, I’m not alone in my struggle.

I read Katrina Kittle’s post Keep the Faucet On: Slow and Steady Fills the Ocean. After commiserating with every writer’s plight, Kittle offers simple, real-world suggestions to those scheduling conflicts/time management issues.

I’m starting by letting go of my belief that a writing schedule must look the same every day. What a relief. Her words of encouragement got me back to the keyboard.

Maybe, with a little pre-planning and realistic expectation, time really is on your side.

–Claire Yezbak Fadden

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I can come up with lots of reasons to not work on my fiction. There are deadlines for articles, baskets of laundry waiting, roasts that need defrosting. The hardest thing is to keep my butt in the chair, putting words on the page, delving into my characters and showing—not telling.

I realize this is part of being a writer. We’ve all stared at a blank computer screen, trying not to be distracted, or feeling depleted of ideas. “You can fix anything but a blank page,” popular writer Nora Roberts says.

She discards the idea that writers must wait for inspiration to come to them mystically, as if from a muse. “Inspiration is crap,” she said during an interview at a Romance Writers of America conference. She told writing hopefuls to not waste their time waiting for a muse to help them move their fingers across the keyboard. Frankly, she said the muse is “a fickle bitch. Don’t depend on her.”

Well, I’m not necessarily waiting for a muse to pour compelling prose through my fingertips, but I am looking for suggestions on how to keep writing, especially when it seems like the last thing I’m able to do.

How do you keep at it? What tricks can you share with your fellow writers to keep us writing when we feel like we’re “carving in granite with a toothpick,” as Roberts suggests.

–Claire Yezbak Fadden

Last night I finished my first pass through the galleys (copy edited hard copy) of Tattoo. I hope to make 2-3 passes through the book before I return it to my publishers, and I’m very happy to be on track with my schedule. I have about 3 weeks left to do a deep read and make final changes.

I tried a new routine this go-round. A quick read, looking only at the editor’s and copy editor’s comments (typos, commas, grammar errors etc.) and okaying them. I approved nearly every change, except the ones that sounded foreign to my ears, where my distinctively wacky wording was normalized. I kept just two or three of those, and let the rest slide. It’s a test of my detachment to allow someone else to rearrange my words but I understand that continuity, standard English and clarity are required to push the dream from my head into the world and have it make sense.

A clean page without any marks on it feels like getting a gold star, and when I found an error that the copy editor missed (hard to do, because s/he is incredibly thorough), it was better than finding a baby in a king cake.

Changes which require research, more thought, or rewriting have tabbed pages. You can see I’ve got my work cut out for me!

Sadly, I have to replace a song with my own text, which means accessing my poetic brain and writing something to replace the lyrics to Severance, by Dead Can Dance. Apparently, it costs £200 to secure the rights from the record company, and I can’t justify the expense. Sorry my darlings, no new school clothes or filled cavities for you, I must have my song! I realized that when I watch that scene unfold, I’m hearing the music, getting this full-on surround sound 3-D experience that 99.9% of readers probably won’t have unless they know & love that song, too. So, that wish gets shelved for the day they make the movie…

The coming months are crammed with conventions/appearances and writing like a fiend to try to meet all the deadlines I’ve set myself. Better to be busy than idle, chewing off my nails pacing the floors as I wait for Things to Happen.

I came back from San Francisco with a head full of ideas, contacts, knowledge and a cold. Writers with Drinks was lots of fun, a full house and an attentive audience. What more could one want?

Kirsten at Writers with Drinks in SF

Now, off to attempt to resuscitate the pathetic plants in the yard, edit and edit some more, eat melty, slurpy NY Super Fudge Chunk and try not to indulge in to many episodes of Hotel Babylon on Netflix.

Happy weekend to you! KIK

WWD hostess Charlie Jane Anders

Bob Dobbs says, "The SubGenius Must Have Slack" The logo is from the http://www.subgenius.com The SubGenius Foundation, Inc.

I have to admit, this has been difficult for me lately, especially with the ‘Global Economic Crisis’ in progress.  I swear, if I hear that standard excuse for treating employees unfairly and leaving us all feeling like we might be fired at any moment one more time, I’m going to walk out the door.  Actually, I can’t walk out, but I do in my head nearly ten times a day of late.  Still, I must soldier on because I need that piddly squat pay to feed and shelter myself.  I also need some of it to buy printer cartridges and paper.

I think all artists experience this feeling at one point or another.  I think we all dream about getting that phone call that we’ve made the big sale, or gotten the big part so we can finally tell the boss where he can stick his ‘Global Economic Crisis’.

I like to dream of the phone call going down like it did for my idol, Stephen King.  Getting the phone call from his agent that Carrie had sold.  That was the manuscript he says he tried to throw in the trash, but his lovely wife saved it.  Glad she did; it’s the book that hooked me on him in the first place.  That book also earned him a $40,000 advance (keep in mind, them’s 1973 dollars, so who knows how much of an advance it would be by today’s standards).

I’d like to at least make enough to get out of being robbed at least part of the time.  I could do part time, but this full time rape is getting old, bleeding me dry.  Sometimes exhausting me to the point of not being able to do what I really want to do at the end of a long day.  Being in a private institution for adults means that I work full time for these people, but I’m treated like a part time employee.

I have to tell myself every day that there has to be something there I need, something that will help my craft.  I read an article in which one writer claimed he got writer’s block when he stopped teaching and he couldn’t write a word until he went back to it part time.

Maybe he’s right.

I’ve also heard/witnessed over and over that you still can’t quit your day job even after you’ve made the big sale.

King continued to teach off and on after that first big sale.

I think the thing that keeps me going is the students.  As I mentioned before, they’re adults so it’s not like I’m ‘doin’ it for the kids’.  But in this crazy country that looks like one big shopping center to them, they are like a bunch of kids.  Even the ones who are well into their forties and fifties are astounded by our 24/7 society.

I get to answer cool questions like “When Americans ask you ‘How are you?’ do they really want to know the truth or are they just being polite?” or “What’s a Ped X-ing?” and here’s my favorite: “What are bail bonds?”

I love this one because I get to tell them a little about how our legal system works and that we really do have bounty hunters here in America.  Their eyes go very wide and they probably start imagining dusty streets with tumble weeds rolling by while Clint Eastwood comes down the street, spurs clanging ominously as his hands hover over the two six shooters strapped to his sides.

Though I have managed to relieve them of the notion that all Americans own guns since this one doesn’t and won’t.

I took a bunch down to the courthouse one week.  It wasn’t until I started working at this school that I discovered you can just walk in to the local courthouse and watch most trials.

The first thing one of my students whispered to me was, “This courtroom is so much smaller than I expected.”

I responded, “And much less tidy and well-lit.”

He nodded and added, “Nothing like it is on TV!”

It’s moments like these when I realize that American society is rarely ‘As Seen on TV’.

I also find my students are a wealth of knowledge I can draw upon.  I can find out how they really think, and what things are really like in their countries.  Not only do we misrepresent ourselves to other countries on TV, we fool ourselves into believing lots of really strange things about them!

Contrary to popular belief, only farmers wear those wooden clogs in the Netherlands and the country of Switzerland is not made entirely of chocolate!  french fries are really Belgian, and pizza in Italy is nothing like it is here.

The Swiss really do use Ricola and are usually on time, though.

I find that comforting.

Since a lot of my stories take place outside this country, my characters sometimes say things in other languages. I find I can’t rely on Babel Fish (the Alta Vista version, not the Douglas Adams one) since it’s just going to translate things word for word, never giving any hint about whether or not this is what a native speaker would really say in any given situation.

Example:  Here in America, we say, “What’s up?”, “How ya doin’?” or something like that for a greeting.  South of the border, we might say, “Que pasa”, which literally translates into ‘What passes”.  This is where Babel Fish will let you down.

But this is also where having students from all over the world is quite handy.

I remember asking an Italian male student about a translation once.  I needed to know how an Italian man would say that a girl is ‘curvey’ or ‘shapely’.  When I asked him, he said, “Who am I saying this to, my mother or another man?”

Valuable stuff, because the two versions of that are way different.  One of the ways would have earned him a slap from his mother and a trip to confess to the local priest, and the other would go by unnoticed.

So I do it for the students and I do it for me, I guess.

Now I just need to find someone who speaks some form of Gaelic!

I have to admit, it’s a little embarrassing, but I can’t get to all my writing projects without an anal daily schedule. No kidding. Writing is supposed to be a creative craft, right? But if I don’t set aside blocks of time for each project and stick to it, something goes amiss. Today, for example, I worked on my novel, Taking Chances, and I didn’t manage to seek out editors at magazines to query. I KNOW I have to start writing for national publications to take my nonfiction book platform to the next level. The queries won’t write themselves. Of course, I just finished a Media Bistro class on how to build a strong platform, so the previous month, most of my writing time has been spent on nonfiction. Argh! I’m out of balance – again. See? Unless I lay out a specific schedule for a given day, with the timer set to go off when it’s time to change activities, my work is less efficient in EVERYTHING. Holiday season, the new tile floor under construction in the kitchen, my daughters’ car accident yesterday, there are always life’s distractions to get in the way of completing writing tasks. Outside of the unavoidable (like a head-on collision on the way to school- thank God for airbags), I find the only way I can get projects done or keep them progressing at an even pace is to plug in daily periods of time to work on them.

A Wednesday schedule might be:

4:30-6 am: Walk with Sue (one of my best buddies)

6-6:50 – make lunches, eat morning munchies

6:55-7:30 – handle email

7:30-9:30 Work on Grade by Grade (blog, newsletter, research, writing, queries to mag. publishers, social marketing, etc.)

9:30-10:30 Write the blog post for Pageaday Writers.

10:30-10:50 Breakfast Break

10:50-12:50 Nonfiction article research and writing

12:50-1:30 Lunch break

1:30-2:20 Shower and get myself together. (I know, eew! Dried sweat, blah blah. So what. I’m writing in isolation, in my small corner of the formal dining room, cloistered with my computer.)

2:30 Pick up Paige from high school and spend some time with her.

3:30 Leave for Barnes Tennis Center to get Paige to her clinic.

4:00-7:00 Work on Taking Chances, my YA novel.

7:30 dinner (My hubby does the cooking. I know. I’m a lucky girl.)

8:00 Clean up the kitchen.

8:30-10 Family time

When I get everything done on a Wednesday like that, I feel like I can solve world hunger or take care of that pesky global warming thing everyone keeps whining about. OK, maybe not that life-changing, but on days when I conscientiously follow my schedule, and Iget soo much done, it’s a truly amazing feeling.

Today is not one of those Wednesdays.

But I had LOTS of fun in Maria’s world today. 😉

Happy writing!

Trish Wilkinson (twtrifles)


Who are we?

The Page a Day Writers Group is a diverse collection of wonderful writers based in San Diego, CA. We've been meeting monthly since 2004. Our primary function is in-depth writing critique, marketing and brainstorming, but there's usually some wine, chocolate and ribaldry involved too. We write fantasy, humor, literary fiction, nonfiction, romance, thrillers and YA. Join us on our journeys to publication and the wonderland beyond!

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