Monthly Archives: October 2017

Tracking Your Time

Unless you’re writing just for yourself, writing is not just writing. There are a host of other activities that use your time as well, especially if you’re self-publishing. I got to a point where I felt like I wasn’t actually writing nearly enough, so I designed a spreadsheet to monitor my writing and writing-related activities.

This has had two benefits.

It’s gotten me into the habit of keeping my daily planner at hand and marking the time actually spent on an activity as I finish and go on to something else. This is keeping me accountable. It’s made me see how my time is actually used each day and what I’ve accomplished each week.

Most weeks, I’m spending about twenty hours writing and revising work. That includes blogs and promotional work as well as my books, scripts, and short stories because the promo work needs the same skills and attention to be effective. At first, I was going to separate new writing from revisions, but realistically, writing is re-writing and it’s more important to polish a work thoroughly than to rush on to the next.

I’m also spending about twenty hours each week on critique groups—the actual meetings and pre-reading others’ work. I currently work with several groups, three of which require pre-reading material. The time pre-reading other people’s work is my payment for the critique they give me. Even if I make enough to hire an editor, I’ll probably continue participating in critique groups because the multiple points of view provide rich feedback in the developmental stage and I learn from reading and participating in the critique of their work as well.

Finally, I spend up to twenty hours a week on research, routine business (website maintenance, emails, etc.), new business (queries, submissions, etc.), general networking (writer’s meetings, conferences, workshops, etc.), and assorted other activities related to publishing and marketing. I’d like to cut back on this and will, when I can afford to hire competent people to do parts of it.

Yes, that adds up to sixty hours a week. Do I do this every week? No. After two or three weeks hitting that mark, I’ll have a couple slow weeks. However, even when I feel like I’m being lazy, I find I’m doing writing-related activities about forty hours a week. I’m planning to take some “vacation” time over the holidays and it’ll be interesting to see how much time is still spent on writing activities.

I’d like to make a living from my writing, so it’s only reasonable to work as much at writing as I used to as a teacher who did prep and paperwork evenings and weekends.



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Writing Time

There are people with day jobs who get up before dawn to have an hour or two of writing time. They have my admiration. When I was teaching full time, I did not have the energy or focus to do that.

Some people have a set number of pages or words that they write each day. That is also an admirable habit. When I’ve squirreled myself away someplace other than home, I can sustain a goal of 10,000 words per day for a week or so. That means I can crank out the first draft of a novel in that time.

But sustain a daily writing habit with specific goals indefinitely? That is beyond me. Sometimes other things take priority for a day. Between now and Thanksgiving, I need to set aside several days to finish painting the inside of my home, rearranging things to house two extra families for a night or two over that holiday, and a full day to go pick up my granddaughter so we’ll have a week together before everyone else comes. We’re going to work on her book for that week. I might spend a few minutes here and there on activities that support my writing (like keeping up with emails), but it will be incidental. I’ll apply the same focus I give to writing to my family and other projects.

I do have long-range and short-range writing goals and I do track my progress. At the end of each year, I make a list of annual accomplishments. When I feel like I haven’t done enough, I check those and realize I’m really doing a lot. I also make a list of goals for the year ahead, and while I may not work on my writing every single day, I do track progress toward those goals. I tend to be overly optimistic about how much one person can do, but over the last ten years, I’ve usually accomplished most of my annual goals.

While writing every day is can be a good habit, even more important is using your writing time effectively. Whether or not you write daily, set goals for the year and monitor your progress toward those goals regularly. Every Sunday, I evaluate the preceding week in light of my yearly goals and plan the one ahead—including realistically setting aside days when I will focus on other things and not write.

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Profession or Hobby?

You’re writing a book. Are you approaching this as a profession or is it a hobby?

Given how difficult it is to be successful, it might be healthier to approach writing and self-publishing as a hobby, something you do for fun.  However, are you approaching it seriously enough you don’t harm others?

Self-publishing is gaining respect because of writers who are approaching writing and publishing professionally. They make sure their books are edited. They pay attention to genre and industry standards for formatting. The hobbyist who publishes a rough draft rife with errors and formatted poorly hurts every serious self-publisher, not only by putting a dent in the self-publishing image, but by making it that much harder for a reader to find the good books.

You can approach writing and self-publishing as a hobby and still produce a well-written, professionally-produced book. It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money.

A good critique group can help you polish the writing. Your library, book clubs, and English teachers at a local college may be able to suggest good editors and proof-readers. When it comes to formatting, you can buy templates or do it yourself using your word processor—if you know how to use styles, show all formatting marks, paragraphing, and other tools. If you don’t, head back to the library and local college and ask for a word processing guru. In any case, make sure you have copies of traditionally published books in the same genre to use as examples of how it should look. Pay attention to details.

This takes more time and effort than throwing up a rough draft, but friends who buy it may actually read it, and you won’t be hurting other writers.

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Read Your Work – Out Loud

I work with several critique groups. Some of them have us email pages ahead of the meeting and we come prepared to dive right into discussion. Others, we each bring a (usually smaller) number of pages to be read on the spot—often out loud. While it’s possible to get more work critiqued with the mail-ahead groups, I really like reading a story out loud. As I read, I often make my own corrections as I hear a word repeated unnecessarily or realize I missed writing a word. I also read pieces aloud before I submit them. It’s amazing how many times I’ll catch one last typo in a work that’s been polished.

It makes sense, though. Teachers are encouraged to use multi-modality instruction because we learn through all of our senses. While we write, we’re using primarily vision, along with the tactile and kinesthetic senses used with the keyboard or pen. If we only use our vision to edit the work, we’re more likely to miss errors. By reading aloud, we add our auditory sense and move the kinesthetic experience from hand to mouth. Because we’re changing the senses used, errors stand out more vividly. Especially if a sentence is worded awkwardly, or meaning is not clear, or the wrong word has been used, it will be heard more readily than seen.

Especially if you are a new writer, read your work out loud before you submit it to a critique group, contest, or publisher.


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Sheri McGuinn

Object Relations

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Little Fears

Tales of humour, whimsy and courgettes

Elan Mudrow



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