Ticking Clocks and Talking Writing: A Guest Post

I addressed the topic of not having enough time to write a couple of weeks ago, which you can read here. But when I learned my publishing guru had some more advice to share, I couldn’t help but ask her to write a guest post. Meet Ekta Garg, founder and owner of Prairie Sky Publishing

289801_10150378860413131_1075513496_oMy girls take dance lessons at the cultural center connected to our local park district. Families of all students participating in the big recital this spring must volunteer for 10 hours to help prepare for the performance. This includes sewing costumes, building and painting sets, and volunteering to help corral kids on the day of the recital.

Recently I went to the first volunteer meeting. The head of the group, an easy-going woman clearly an expert at this entire venture, suggested that instead of taking time out of the week to work on the set, we come to the basement of the cultural center during dance classes. It’s a good way, she said, to use the time we would normally spend waiting for our children to finish their lessons.

I can’t come down here during dance class, I thought. That’s my writing time.

Welcome to one of the keys to my time management strategy for writing.

***

A writer who lives alone has the luxury of time and space. He or she answers to no one and only has to worry about one person’s needs and wants. Most of us writers, however, don’t live alone. We have children, spouses/partners, often other jobs. We need to make meals, do laundry, clean homes, and, occasionally, have a social life.

The minute you connect your life with someone else’s, you’re scrambling for time. When those someone elses come in the form of little people who can’t drive yet, you’re really scrambling for time, it becomes the biggest issue, the most precious commodity.

Writing good stories takes time. But how do you find time to write when so many other demands line up for your attention at any given point?

By getting creative and keeping a proactive attitude toward your day. Stay in attack mode. Pounce on any free minutes you have. How do you do that? I’d like to share a few tips that have worked for me.

  1. Take advantage of the mornings. After I drop the kids off at school, I come right back home, make myself a cup of tea, and sit down with my computer. I don’t get up for at least an hour. This first hour of the morning offers me a great deal of clarity because I haven’t cluttered my brain with everything else for the day just yet. I’m coming to my story fresh and with energy. On the days when I don’t get a chance to write at any other time, at least I know I’ve tucked in an hour of time first thing.
  1. Have kids in activities? Write. My daughters take art, dance, and music lessons after school. Because my husband is involved in a demanding career, I get to play chauffeur during the day. My computer goes with me everywhere. Dance moms can be incredibly chatty, but I don’t indulge in social time during class. I even leave the immediate vicinity of the lesson area by going to a coffee shop nearby (and, yes, I’ve taken the time to find coffee shops where I can escape.) These are times when I’m guaranteed freedom; the kids have something to keep them occupied and I am required to sit still. I make time for friends on other occasions. When I’m waiting for kids in lessons, I’m writing.
  1. Don’t underestimate the power of the half-hour. Okay, so I’ll admit that sounds a bit cheesy, but the point is this: Don’t think you need long stretches of time to write well or productively. If you find yourself with an extra half-hour of time, use it. Have leftovers in the fridge you can use for dinner? Use that time you’d normally devote to prepping your evening meal for writing. Did a friend make plans for lunch and then bail at the last minute? Use that bailout for writing. Is it a snow day and the kids are parked in front of a movie? Watch half of it with them and then spend the rest of the time writing. Look for those opportunities for that half-hour or even 10 minutes, and then use them.
  1. Writing doesn’t always mean with a pen or the computer. Agatha Christie said that one of the best times to write was when one was doing the dishes. You can substitute any mundane activity in that spot, and the idea still applies. Often when I’m driving from place to place, I let my mind work on my current work-in-progress. I think about the story, where it is, where I’d like to take it. I consider a variety of scenarios for my characters and use that time to work out story problems. When I sit down at my computer later, I’ve already got the bare bones framework in my mind.

It may take a little practice, but once you go after your day with a proactive “Writing first” mindset, you’ll find yourself with little pockets of time to write every day. Make it a priority, be flexible, and learn to adapt to what your day brings. You’ll finish that manuscript in no time.

Bio:

With an MSJ in magazine publishing from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern under her belt, Ekta has enjoyed a great deal of diversity in her publishing career. Since 2005 she has written and edited about everything from healthcare to home improvement to Hindi films for a variety of publications. In 2014 Ekta launched Prairie Sky Publishing as the home of her dynamic short story concept, Stories in Pairs. She also manages her professional writing platform, The Write Edge, as well as its three extension blogs on weekly fiction, parenting, and book reviews, and she completes her passion for storytelling by editing the manuscripts of writers who want to prepare their work for publication. When not fulfilling her writing and editing dreams on a regular basis, Ekta maintains her position as a domestic engineer (housewife) and enjoys being a mother to two beautiful daughters.

Check out Ekta’s sites, and connect with her via social media:

Prairie Sky PublishingThe Write EdgeFacebook, GoodreadsTwitter

Email, [for editing questions] egarg0201@gmail.com [for publishing questions] prairieskypublishing@gmail.com

Don’t forget to submit your short story for a chance to win $150! Submissions are due by February 25th. Click here for details.

Your Secret Bucket List

 

IMG_0655I bet you have two bucket lists.

I used to.

They’re usually labeled, “It Could Happen,” and “Only if I Can Find Where My Dog was Burried in the Backyard On the First Try.” Otherwise known as, “Not On Your Life.”

In the “It Could Happen” bucket, you have things like,

Ride in a hot air balloon

Get a promotion

Live long enough to see Episode IV

Make out with someone by graduation

Read ten books this year

These are things well within our grasp. Well, my high school self had a hard time finding people to make out with, but chances are, if you’re not me, you can make it happen.

These are things most people around you have accomplished and, as long as you don’t mistake an active volcano for a swimming pool, you’ll live long enough to carry out as well.

Now let’s peel the lid off that second bucket, shall we? It’s much darker inside than the first bucket-bucket-bucket. It’s also emptier-emptier-emptier. (See what I’m doing there? With my awesome demonstrative skills, I’m illustrating with lyrically-placed echoes that this bucket is also much larger.)

You shine your phone around (because no one uses flashlights anymore, and if you do, you should add getting an iPhone to your first bucket list), and here’s what we find:

Publish your songs on iTunes

Write a bestseller

Start a blog and get 20,000 followers

Win a gold medal

Start a business

The difference between this list and the first is pretty obvious. It’s likely you don’t know anyone who’s accomplished anything in your “Not On Your Life” bucket. Which means you’re on your own.

Do you think that stopped Cam Newton from putting his dreams in one smaller, more manageable, public bucket?

Do you honestly think J.K. Rowling kept her biggest hopes isolated from her more ‘achievable’ goals?

Did Adele attempt to hide her much bigger bucket list from everyone she knew?

I doubt it, too.

Stop separating your bigger dreams  from your smaller dreams (which are basically items on a to-to list). Because then you’re only focusing on what you think you can accomplish and those bigger dreams only get visited once in a purple moon. I’ve never seen a purple moon, so…

Don’t be ashamed of your dreams, either. There’s nothing wrong with having high hopes. Tell everyone you know. Who knows – they might be tremendous sources of encouragement. Or, they might ask you really difficult questions like my wife did when I told her I wanted to start my own publishing company.

In a way, that’s better than a blanket encourager. Her questions forced me to evaluate whether I can really do this or not.

So combine your to-do-list dreams with your larger dreams. Earning your airplane license should be in the same bucket as dying your hair blue.

No more secret goals. Make them real, make them public, make them happen.

Have you entered the Endever Writing Contest yet? Add that to your bucket list and win $150! Deadline is February 25th.

I Hope You Don’t Die So You Can Read This

I’m not good at many things, but I’m awesome at jinxing people.

I’m also pretty incredible at not being like everyone else. And sometimes these two go hand-in-hand.

For instance, I have two colleagues at work who leave a half-hour before I do and every time they leave I try to say things that other people wouldn’t normally say.

So instead of saying, “Have a good night,” I say, “I hope your night doesn’t suck.”

Or instead of, “See you tomorrow,” I say, “Keep your phone nearby in case you choke on your dinner.”

I’m not morbid; it gets a laugh out of them. Plus, I like being remembered.

A couple of favorites have been, “Don’t crash on your way home,” or, “If you do crash, limp away, if you can, from the site in case you have a gas leak and your car’s on fire.”

Well, turns out neither of them listened to me.

In the past three weeks, one colleague totaled her car in a snow storm, and the other one came limping into work with a leg brace and an cast on his arm he won from a bad wreck. I understand he dragged himself away from his car, semi-consious, before the fire got out of control. I take credit for him still being with us today.

So now my supervisor is coaching me on common social cues such as, “Drive safe,” and “See you bright and early tomorrow.”

That’s boring. And, never has a “Be careful” saved a life.

To further my defense, my way of bidding people farewell causes them to think a little differently about things. Like, “Wow I totally could have been hit by that merging semi on the freeway.” Or, “That Big Mac could have been the last thing my weakening heart could have taken. Glad it didn’t get wedged in my throat. But if it did, I had 911 ready and by my side.”

Here, at no charge, I’ll offer you a couple of my trademark takeaways:

That book you’re working on could be the only one you get a chance to attempt.

That song you’re writing could be you’re only hit.

Your blog could be your only major social media presence. Ever.

You could think of those as being negative, or you could see the message behind them. If you do the latter, it just means you have to put extra effort into what you’re currently working on.

I realize my publishing company may be the only chance I have to own and run a business. This may be my one shot. So I’ve got to make it really good.

Don’t just “have a good day,” or, “drive safe.”

Don’t crap out. Don’t give up. Don’t crash.

If you do, hopefully your spouse and kids will still be around to gather around your coffin. That is what I wish for you and for me.

Have you entered the Endever Writing Contest yet? Write a 500-word story and win $150! Deadline is February 25th.

 

Meet Lynn, Partner and Co-Founder of Endever Publishing Studios

Lynn Galloway is one of two people I have chosen to help me get Endever off the ground and running into a full-blown publishing company. Please take a moment to get to know her. 

 

My name is Lynn Galloway and I reside in the beautiful state of Colorado. I live aboutLee and Flatirons thirty minutes away from the base of the Rocky Mountains and am blessed to be able to see the gorgeous landscape every day. This is a picture of my husband, Lee, on our wedding day, watching the storm clouds roll in (we had an outdoor venue) and those behind him are the Flatirons in Boulder. This is one of our favorite hiking places.

We will always live in Colorado, which makes looking for a job in publishing that much more difficult. We were not about to pick up and move to New York, which is the main hub for publishing. Endever coming along and taking a chance on me was the best thing to happen to me in the world of publishing to date. I am able to stay in my favorite state, work from home, and be in publishing.

Why publishing? It wasn’t my original intention when I started college. I thought my calling would be music because I am such a band kid (flute, piano, and percussion). It wasn’t until my senior year, in one specific Lit class, that I discovered English was my forte.

Lynn Bio PicMy first year of college I attended Colorado State University, but I was homesick and came home after one year. The next 8-9 years went a little like this:

Move out of my parents’ house, work three jobs, think about attending college again, finally get back into school, but of course meet a boy, have a baby girl. Put school on hold to be parents. Get married. He completes his degree while I manage to get back to school. He goes to police academy and becomes state certified, I obtain my degree, and start the job search.

But that’s just an overview. I received my Bachelor’s Degree in English with a concentration in writing and a minor in journalism in May of 2015. I switched up my major from secondary education to writing when my Mom said to me, “If you could just get paid to read, you’d be all set.” And it was true! Reading is my kryptonite, but I have also always been a writer. I didn’t necessarily know it at the time, but as soon as I took the leap and switched my major, I realized I had found my calling.

Hollywood GlamThrough it all, my husband and my daughter, Layna, have been my backbone and support system. Layna is six-years-old and in first grade. She is a pro at pushing my buttons and loving me all in one moment. She is energetic, talks all the time, and has a heart of solid gold. She also loves to stare at herself in the mirror, dance, and sing.

Any questions you have about me, ask! I want to hear what you want to know.

You can follow me on Twitter, Goodreads, and my blog: FictionMusings

Have you submitted your short story for the Endever Writing Contest?? The deadline is February 25th, only 22 days away, so get your story in!

Why I’ve Decided to Stop Hating My Day Job

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If you’re reading this you probably feel trapped in the monotonous hell of a 9-5.

And every day is the worst day of your life.

Saturdays are bad because you’re still trying to unwind from the stress of Monday-Friday and Sundays are worse because you’re dreading the next Monday-Friday steamroller.

I know this feeling well. But I’m not there anymore.

Not because I quit. No, I’m still punching a clock like you.

I’m not there anymore because I’ve changed my outlook.

I’ve decided not to see my job as a hinderance to my dream job as a book publisher and author, but rather as an enabler (and I do mean that in a good way).

It’s because of my day job that I have money to pay for my mocha frappuccios (fancy shakes) while conference calling with my business partners. Of course, I’ll need that income later to pay for a personal trainer to lose all those carbs.

My day job pays for my food and my gas and my internet. I couldn’t pursue my dream without those things.

But it’s more than that.

My day job is my platform to put my best self forward. While there, I can practice pulling my colleagues together and encourage them to work their best. After all, those traits will be required of me as CEO of Endever Publishing Studios.

So, even though it’s Monday, and I’m dealing with difficult people on the phone all day, I want to say, “Thank you, Day Job, for providing sustenance so I can pursue my dream.”

I challenge you to thank your boss for the job you have. And work at it as though you’re the CEO.

Have you submitted your short story for our writing contest yet? Why not? You can win $150. Give it a shot. Click here for the rules and guidelines and the link to submit.

Click here to submit! (deadline is February 25th)

Follow Endever on Facebook and Twitter to watch us grow!

Any questions, email us at endeverpublishing@gmail.com or ask below.

 

On Writing: Character- vs. Plot-Driven

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A couple of weeks ago I posted a request for my readers to ask me questions about anything concerning writing. If I haven’t gotten to your question, rest assured, I will.

Agyei Agyapong of Vestpalblog asked: “What has been your greatest challenge as a writer? How did you overcome it ?”

There are many challenges I face as a writer. One, dealing with a  full schedule and just life in general. I address that issue here.

But that’s an issue that’s divorced from the writing process itself. As far as struggling with something directly with writing… I would say character development.

There are two kinds of serious fiction writers. There are plot-driven writers and those who tend to be more character-driven.

I was shocked when I heard recently that some people are prompted to start a book because of a character they made up that sounds interesting.

I could never do that. My book prompts are all “What if” questions, such as, “What if a full-grown family man discovered an imaginary world?” (Don’t bother buying this one yet because I’m revising it for a possible second edition.)

“What if a teenage girl falls in love with a guy …AFTER he dies?”

“What if…” Well, I’ll keep the rest a secret for now.

And so, ironically enough, that’s where other people come in. People who’s minds are character-driven. I need their help to add a little sauce and flavor to my characters’ personalities.

I purposefully surround myself with people who can look at one of my bland characters and figure out what makes them tick, what drives them, what are their weaknesses, and so on.

So, as a writer, figure out if you’re plot-driven or character-driven. That’s easy. The harder part is finding people who can be that other side of your brain and fill in those holes in your book.

Also, I’ve begun reading books on the topic of character development so that I can better train myself and stretch that part of my brain so that I can become more character-driven as I write.

I hope this helps. And if I think of other struggles I face as a writer, I’ll write about them in subsequent posts.

Follow me on Twitter or Facebook to read the email Pixar wrote me! Also, need an editor for your manuscript? Consider me. 

On Writing: Dealing with a Busy Schedule

The next question from my Ask Away post is from Roxanne Oduro. She asked:

“I’m a university student, and with the amount of readings and assignments I have [to] do, I barely have any time to write. Do you have any tips/advice on how to keep up with writing even with a busy schedule?”

I’m going to have to be really honest here and state that I don’t have the answer. I’m still trying to figure it out.

I have a tendency to put my writing above my family (the equivalent, I guess, to being a university student, maybe?). The last couple of months, in fact, has been really rough.

Not to get too personal, but it got to the point where Sarabeth told me to not do any writing at the house because she didn’t want the kids or herself to be flat-out ignored while they clambered for my attention.

I hate to admit it, but that worked. I finished the first draft of my YA novel, which I’m extremely proud of and excited to release to you all when it’s fully edited and revised.

But I know you can’t just take off from college any time you want. But if you’re observant, you’ll notice you have more time than you think (it’s just hidden in the clutter of your full itinerary).

Aside from my family I also work a full-time job and I sit at my desk with a pen and pad and jot down notes and ideas I have during the day. I did the same thing when I was in school. I’ve learned to “split my brain,” so to speak. Even though I’m paying attention to what’s before me, I’ve tried the other side of my brain to run a constant reel of whatever book I’m working on.

Ideas don’t take breaks. We do.

The point to all of this is, you’ve got to find a way that works best for you. Perhaps recording your thoughts as you walk from class to class. Instead of taking a TV break from studying, you write.

Delete the games on your phone.

Maybe you’re in a relationship where he/she isn’t encouraging you in your work/dreams. If you’re married, work it out. If you’re not, dump ’em.

Prioritize. And then cut out the clutter that doesn’t need to be there.

You’ve got to be willing to lose sleep. I’m up at 4 AM or earlier most mornings to get a head start. Someone told me recently that the mornings are when your best ideas come out, because you’re fresh off the battery pack, so to speak.

You have to make the hard decisions to get done what you really want to get done. Ask yourself every day: “Do you really want to be a writer, or is that just what you tell people because it sounds cool?” (This can apply to any dream job.)

I wish I had an easier answer to this, but I just don’t. And I can fill up about four more posts sharing ideas and failed attempts. I’m still learning. I hope this helps, anyway.

Follow me on Twitter: @atoy1208 and Facebook. Why? Because you’re going to get a front-row seat watching this average guy start a publishing company from scratch. And I’m going to need you to root me on.

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