Category Archives: Writing skills and techniques

Helpful Writing Sites and Blog Posts April/May 2012

I seem to have accululated quite a few links on promoting yourself as an author the past two months, from having a great author bio to having a professional headshot to hitting #1 on Amazon. Speaking of Amazon, don’t forget you can still get free copies of Eighty Nine for Kindle until 5.59pm AEST tomorrow (Friday). That’s 11.59pm Thursday US Pacific time and 8.59am Friday UK time. You can see my previous post for more information and links.

And now to the helpful posts for April and May…

Writing

Writing the Longer Picture Book

Mara Rockliff talks about writing longer picture books (over 600 words), including important tips for authors to keep in mind when writing a longer picture book.

8 Apps Every Writer Should Have

A list of 8 helpful writing apps for your phone, including a story tracking app for those who are in the process of submitting queries and a rhyming app for poets/picture book writers.

Ideas for Story Structure

I’ve seen a lot of different ways to plan out story structure, but I just love the simplicity of this idea. It’s not only a simple way of plotting out your novel/short story/picture book (yes, it can equally be applied to all three), it manages to incorporate the main points of the story arc. I’ll definitely be using this system in future.

Promoting Yourself as an Author

Five Ways to Fix a Boring Bio

Whether you’re published, unpublished, querying, have a Twitter or Facebook account or a blog, at some point in your writing career you will need to write an author bio (multiple times!). Think you’re boring? Or haven’t done enough yet? This post offers 5 simple and logical ways to spice up your author bio.

The Seven Worst Mistakes of Indie Authors and How to Fix Them

If you are taking the self-publishing route, this post by Joanna Penn is a must-read. She has some great advice, with solutions to oft-made mistakes by self-publishers. She speaks from the experience of someone who has been down the self-publishing path and had to learn from her own mistakes.

Amazon Bestseller: Top Ten Tips for Hitting #1 on the Amazon Store 

A post from author Rachel Abbot, whose book has topped the Amazon charts. She shares her experience of starting out thinking all she had to do was upload her book and the profits would roll in, to discovering the key factors to marketing her book successfully.

Author Business Cards

A literary agent, who is not generally a fan of business cards, talks about how to make a stellar business card that won’t get thrown in the trash. Some really great tips!

Mastering Your Author Headshot

Author August McLaughlin offers some helpful tips on making sure your author headshot gives the right impression and how you can get the most out of a headshot photo session. She includes an interview with headshot photographer Ken Dapper.

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How to Find Inspiration for Personal Writing (Guest Post)

I’m excited to be returning to my blog after a month hiatus. (For those wondering: baby is doing well, though we had a bit of a scare when she went into hospital with an infection a couple of weeks ago.) While I continue my ‘maternity leave’, I will be hosting a series of guest posts over the next two months. Today’s guest post comes from freelance writer Amanda Tradwick. She looks at how to find inspiration for personal writing when you work as a professional writer, but her advice can equally apply to those of us who work in any industry–it’s all about being able to switch from business mode to creative mode.

How to Find Inspiration for Personal Writing When You Work as a Professional Writer

Many aspiring writers find work as professional writers for another content area. For example, maybe you want to write romantic fiction, but you work as a newspaper reporter. Or maybe you want to write dystopian fantasy stories, but you work as a professional blogger. When you spend the majority of your day writing in a professional capacity, it can be difficult to then come home and spend the time and energy writing your own stories. You have been staring at a computer screen all day stringing together words in a purely functional capacity — how do you then switch modes to rediscover your love of joining words for the magic of creating a new world? Here are a few ways that you can stay inspired and keep working on your personal writing, even when you’ve had a full day of writing for pay:

Create a Separate Space

Much of the writing process is intuitive, based on our thoughts and our emotions. Often, we just need to change the way we think or feel to help us get in the mood to write. Creating a separate writing space for your personal projects can help you do this. If you do your professional work in a home office, go to another room to do your personal work. Create a special place to do your personal writing, setting it up with all the things that you like and that you put you into the frame of mind for doing your personal work. Outfit it with your favorite pens, a comfortable chair, pictures of your favorite authors, books that inspire you, or other special objects like pictures or sentimental items that inspire you to write.

Take a Break

Another way to help you create some mental distance between your professional and your personal work is to take a break between these sessions and do something enjoyable. Clear your mind by doing something that is not related to work or to writing. Watch a movie. Spend time with friends or family. Go for a walk. Any activity that does not require you to use a considerable amount of mental effort can help you to feel more refreshed and ready to work when you sit down to do your personal writing.

Set a Schedule

When you get into the groove of writing, it can become easy to lose track of time and to spend hours upon hours working on a project. If you let this happen with your professional writing, it can easily lead to burn out. Don’t allow yourself to spend an excessive amount of time on your “work” writing. Set a schedule for yourself that gives you an appropriate amount of time each day to complete work tasks, to take a short break, and then to work on personal writing. Your personal writing time can be as little as a half an hour or an hour. By scheduling in this time, you ensure that you don’t allow yourself to devote all your time to work and that you have the time for personal projects. Scheduling in personal writing time also ensures that you will spend time working on it, rather than pushing it off in favor of other projects.

Take Small Steps

Starting a project can be overwhelming. There is so much to sort out: character, plot, outline, and more. Instead of allowing yourself to procrastinate because you’re overwhelmed, give yourself permission to take small steps toward your goal. Start by just writing a sentence — good or bad. Or you can just write down a few notes about character, even just a character name. The next day, write another sentence or short note about story or character. Over time, you can begin to add more sentences or more time spent on the project.

Review Your Goals

Why do you want to be a writer? Why do you want to write novels, or children’s books, or other works of fiction? Asking yourself these questions from time to time and reflecting on the answers will help you remember why you are doing what you’re doing, and it will help you find your inspiration. Remember what made you want to start writing  in the first place and reconnect with that feeling.

Writing everyday for pay can lead to burn out and make you feel uninspired to do any other writing at the end of the day. Finding ways to stay inspired is important to your progress as a writer. Setting a schedule, reviewing your goals, and creating a separate space in which to do your writing can help. What other ways have you found to stay inspired to write, even when you spend your days writing for others? Tell us about them in the comments!

About the author:

Amanda Tradwick is a grant researcher and writer for CollegeGrants.org. She has a Bachelor’s degrees from the University of Delaware, and has recently finished research on scholarships and grants for college students and colorado scholarships and grants.

10 Tips for Writing Dialogue (Guest Post)

As some of you may have heard through Twitter or Facebook, I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl over a week ago. Needless to say it has been a busy and exhausting time and my blog has been rather quiet. I had a post planned just after Valentine’s Day, but didn’t quite get to finish writing it before going into labour, so it has been put on hold for now. In the meantime, I was lucky enough to have freelance blogger and writer Heather Smith offer to write a guest post for me. Here are her top 10 tips for writing dialogue.

10 Tips for Writing Dialogue

1. Start – Getting underway is the toughest part. You have to compose dialogue over and over again to get good at it. You have to practice. The more you write, the better it gets.

2. Eavesdrop – Listen to actual people talking. They don’t use proper grammar. They don’t speak in full sentences. Sometimes they chat over each other. Write dialogue like it actually sounds. Dialogue is rich in its own way- the silences, the crosstalk, the things omitted are just as vital as what’s actually said. 

3. Speak it – Read what you wrote audibly. You’ll hear where it sounds stale or stilted. You’ll hear where it doesn’t flow and where it does flow. If you read quickly enough, your brain will unavoidably correct what you’ve done wrong, so listen to your words as you read aloud. You’ll acquire a lot from this simple exercise. 

4. Chill out– Don’t stress about making your dialogue flawless. Let your characters speak. They may say things that you never imagined. If you know your characters inside and out, let them express themselves through you. You’ll wind up with a much more realistic story. 

5. Wander – Feel free to ramble on. People infrequently get right to the point in a discussion. Unless your character is a police officer or doctor giving a report, don’t presume that they’ll give just the facts. People go off-topic; it’s a part of life. Let your character ramble and they’ll end up much profounder and genuine. 

6. Keep it unpretentious – Don’t make your characters say everything they know. No one does that. Reduce your dialogue to the bare bones. A ‘yep’ or ‘nope’ can speak volumes about a character. They don’t always have to reply to others, and they don’t constantly have to finish a thought. Let your readers fill in some gaps. Letting the readers fill in the blanks adds strata to your story that even you, the writer, might have otherwise overlooked. 

7. Slang – What we speak is a living language. It changes. Let your characters’ verbiage show who they are and where they come from. If they want to say ain’t, then let them. It’s not your job to be the grammar police for your characters.  People speak badly. They dangle participles, they use fragments, and they curse. Remember that it’s not you that’s talking- it is your character. They have their own personalities, so let them be who they are.

8. Less is More– Don’t go too far with accents. Tell the reader what pronunciation a character has and then give clues in the dialogue. No one wants to read a page of apostrophes and deliberately misspelled words. A ya’ll or a gotta once in a while will prompt readers of who’s talking, without the annoyance factor.

9. Intelligibility – Make sure your readers can follow who is talking. A he said, she said will do wonders for a dialogue-heavy piece. If you have more than four quotes without stating who is talking, you might want to toss that in. It doesn’t have to be difficult. ‘He yelled’ works just as well as ‘he shrieked, crying to the skies as his thundering call resonated off the walls’. 

10. Exhibit it– Remember that people are reading your dialogue, not speaking it (unless you’re a screenwriter). If you want a character to pause, take a breath, or even stutter, you’ll have to write it down. Breaking up a quote is a simple way to visuallydisplay a pause. ‘It’s like this,’ he said, ‘I’m leaving.’ Because of that disruption, the reader sees the pause without being told it’s there. Unless you have a character doing something unique with the time between words, make it visual but not explicit. 

Heather Smith is an ex-nanny. Passionate about thought leadership and writing, Heather regularly contributes to various career, social media, public relations, branding, and parenting blogs/websites. She also provides value to nanny service by giving advice on site design as well as the features and functionality to provide more and more value to nannies and families across the U.S. and Canada. She can be available at H.smith7295 [at] gmail.com.

Helpful Writing Sites and Blog Posts January 2011

Time for the first ‘Helpful Writing Sites and Blog Posts’ post of the the year. I’ve collected a lot of great picture book links through the 12 x 12 challenge Facebook group, but I also have a few links in other areas of writing, too.

Writing (General)

Some Advice to New or Aspiring Authors

Some great advice and tips for writers new to the writing/publishing journey.

How to Make a Boring Character Interesting

This post outlines the various reasons your character could be coming across as boring or flat and offers some solutions to make your character more interesting.

Five Tips for Revising Your Novel

Literary Agent Courtney Miller-Callihan gives five tips that look at your novel as a whole when doing revisions, including a tip on character names and another on dialogue tags.

What Will Make an Agent ‘Gong’ Your Query

Thirteen reasons why an agent will stop reading your query–things to avoid when writing query letters.

Grandma Mary Can’t Market Your Book

Whether you intend to self publish or go the traditional publishing route, authors need to consider marketing. This post gives 7 steps to building a marketing plan and reaching out to your readership. It even includes a nifty chart you can use.

When to Quit Querying and Self-Publish

This post does a great job of presenting the various aspects you need to consider if you’re thinking about self-publishing after having little success with querying. It takes a very honest look at the possible reasons your work may be getting rejected and whether self-publishing is a viable alternative and also gives the honest facts about what it takes to self-publish. I love how honest, balanced and unbiased this post is in regards to self-publishing vs. traditional publishing.

Writing for Children

9 Factors That Make a Picture Book Successful

If you are a picture book writer this is a post well worth reading. These are nine important elements to writing an effective picture book.

The 6 Most Common Mistakes Made by Aspiring Children’s Book Authors

6 common mistakes this editor sees made by picture book authors and some advice on how to avoid them.

For All Picture Book Writers, Read This

Links to a four-part interview with Vice President and Editorial Director of HarperCollins Children’s Books and a three-part interview with Golden Books/Random House Editorial Director. Lots of great little nuggets of advice for picture book writers in both interviews.

Picture Book Tips from Successful Agents

Children’s book author and editor Tamson Weston consulted with agents on what makes a picture book successful and shared the top five tips for making your submission stand out.

Writing Easy Readers – Or How To Get 2nd Graders to Love You

5 quick tips for appealing to early readers as shared by an author of children’s chapter books.

Helpful Writing Sites and Blog Posts November and December 2011

I missed posting last month’s helpful writing links post in the craziness of NaNoWriMo, so this month you get the best writing sites and blog posts I’ve come across in the last two months.

Writing

Write Like Jane Austen

I was going to put this website under ‘Just for Fun’, but it is actually quite a helpful writing tool for anyone writing historical/period pieces. Just type in a modern word and it will tell you the equivalent word Jane Austen would have used.

Need a Jump? Four Ways to Fix a Stalled Story

This isn’t about writer’s block. This is for when you know where you want your story to go and you have your plan, but the story just won’t write. The scene you’re writing feels boring and lifeless. Something just isn’t working. This post can help you pinpoint why your story has stalled and how to fix it so you can get momentum going again.

Writing Fantasy Genre Stereotypes Part One: Your Heroine is Too Beautiful and Part Two: Writing the Opposite Gender

This two-part series looks at gender stereotypes in fantasy writing and how to avoid them. In particular, it looks at how in fantasy female characters are often stereotyped as either a sex object or a man in women’s clothing (or often both combined). Part one deals with visual stereotyping in the fantasy genre and part two deals with women who act like men and men who act like women (particularly aimed at women writing male characters or men writing female characters).

10 Ways to Create a Plot Twist

Plot twists are a great way to keep your story exciting, but it’s all about finding the right moment and right scenario to introduce the twist. This post provides ten ways for adding a plot twist into your story.

25 Reasons Readers Will Quit Reading Your Story

As writers we want our readers to keep reading until they turn the very last page. If we don’t want readers to close our book half way through, or, even worse, after the first page, this list provides tips on what to avoid in your novel to ensure your readers will keep turning pages. A great checklist for revision.

Revising

Polishing Till it Shines

A great checklist of things to look out for when revising to make your manuscript as good as it can possibly be before submitting.

Self Publishing

11 Self Publishing Strategies for Success

A lot of authors now look to self publishing as an alternative to traditional publishing, but it is by no means an easy road. This post offers some strategies to help ensure your self publishing journey is a success.

So You’re Thinking About Self Publishing

A round up of helpful sites for those thinking about self publishing.

Social Media

8 Incredibly Simple Ways to Get More People to Read Your Content

Not getting many reads on your blog? This post offers some simple solutions to help get your blog posts noticed (and shared).

How to Write a Popular Writing Blog

Tips for what makes a blog popular (a post for writers who blog).

I hope you all have a happy and safe New Year!

13 Helpful Tips for Revising Your NaNoWriMo Novel (Guest Post)

Hopefully you’ve been letting your novel sit since you finished it to give you some distance from it before you start revising. When the time does come to start your revisions my guest poster today, Brittany Lyons, has some great tips to keep in mind to ensure your novel becomes perfectly polished.

13 Helpful Tips for Revising Your NaNoWriMo Novel

You’ve taken the National Novel Writing Month challenge and after a month of writing feverishly, you now are left with something less than perfect. Yet although you want to get your novel into shape, the task may be so daunting it seems like you are completing one of the world’s toughest PhD programs instead. Don’t despair. Here are some simple, self-editing tips that can help you polish your piece.

1) Make sure your book opens with a sentence or paragraph that grabs the reader’s attention and keeps them reading the next sentence, and the next, and the next.

2) By the end of chapter one, there are a few things that should be revealed to the reader:

  • The genre and time-period in which the story is taking place.
  • The main character, or at least one of them.
  • The main conflict(s) the character(s) are facing, or a foreshadowing of what they are going to face or what is keeping them from attaining their primary goal in life.
  • The setting – the reader must have a sense of where the characters are at all times. Descriptions of rooms and awareness of space and flow are important. Drop these images in naturally so readers understand the “blueprints” to buildings.

3) Make sure you haven’t created perfect characters. Real people are riddled with faults, so a character who has nothing wrong with them in any way is not believable. Without credible characters, your story won’t be interesting. Likewise, avoid describing the character in a paragraph or two. Instead, drop in tidbits about them organically throughout the story.

4) Examine whether your dialogue advances the story – are beats and tag lines relevant to the scene? It’s best to not overuse these, and make everything count.

5) Look for overused, unnecessary, and pet words and phrases. These are the biggest offenders:

  • “That,” “however,” “because,” “of course” and “after all.”
  • While it is okay to use conjunctions like “but,” “and,” “for”, “then,” and “well” to start sentences, don’t begin too many of them that way.
  • “Just” and “very”.
  • Avoid using “begin” and “start.” The moment someone begins or starts to do something, they are actually doing it. These are empty words.
  • Repeating adjectives won’t make something more intense. Watch out for describing something with “very, very” and similar repetitions.
  • Worn out clichés and trite phrases.
  • Don’t begin consecutive sentences with the same word or phrase, unless for effect or to heighten intensity of a scene.

6) Beware of over-explanations that insult the reader. Assume that most of your readers will be able to figure things out for themselves. Example: “I don’t understand why you said that to me,” Margie said, confused. The dialogue already shows Margie’s confusion, so there is no need for further explanation.

7) The most popular point of view (POV) today is third person past tense. When using this tense, write each scene from only one character’s POV. That means you can only describe the scene from what that particular character can see, feel, hear, taste and know.

8 ) Check your work for “information dumps.” It is common for authors to want to explain technical or historical information to the reader. Don’t dump it all in one spot, but rather drizzle it into the story in smaller tidbits so you don’t overwhelm the reader.

9) End each chapter with either a cliffhanger or in the middle of an unresolved scene. The idea is to entice readers to keep reading because they can’t put the book down.

10) Beware of state-of-being verbs that render your sentences passive. If you can rewrite a sentence to get rid of “was” and other forms of “to be,” your work will be more active and interesting.

11) Eliminate adverbs ending in “ly” whenever possible. They are considered “telling.” It is more desirable to “show” the scene. Instead of writing that a character said something excitedly, rewrite it to show us what “excited” looks like for that character.

12) Make sure that when you write “the end,” the story has a satisfying ending. Conclusion to your novel doesn’t have to be happily-ever-after, but all major conflicts must have been resolved, and the reader needs to feel content when they close the book.

13) Lastly, do a final run-through to check for punctuation, usage and grammar errors.

Editing can be a lot of work, but implementing these tips will tighten your writing and give it focus, taking it from blah to ah! The more polished your manuscript, the better chance it has of catching an agent’s or editor’s eye.

Brittany Lyons aspires to be a psychology professor, but decided to take some time off from grad school to help people learn to navigate the academic lifestyle. She currently lives in Spokane, Washington, where she spends her time reading science fiction and walking her dog.

Helpful Writing Sites and Blog Posts October 2011

As it’s October, there will be a special NaNoWriMo section of links for those who will be participating in NaNoWriMo in a few days time. But first, a round up of the other helpful sites and blog posts from the last month:

Writing

Five Fun and Easy Ways to Lengthen Word Count

While some writers write long novels that ultimately need to be trimmed, if you’re anything like me and tend to write spare, sometimes you may find you fall short in the word count department. I have this problem with my current WIP and I found this post to be quite helpful. It suggests ways to lengthen your word count without adding unnecessary fluff or padding.

Your Formula for a Kick-A** Young Adult Heroine

These tips are drawn from a panel of authors who all have kick-butt heroines in their novels.

Revising

Editing Your MS in 30 Days or Less

Some tips from author Elana Johnson on how to edit your novel in a month. While the tips in the post are probably easier to achieve for those of us who don’t have children, they are invaluable tips none-the-less and can still help with editing your novel in a shorter amount of time.

The Twelve Steps I Followed to Format “My Cheeky Angel” for Kindle Direct Publishing

Although this post is primarily directed towards self-publishing authors, there are some valuable formatting tips for all writers to follow before submitting to agents/publishers to make your novel stand out as polished and professional.

10 Proofreading Tips to Ensure Your Self-Published Works are Flawless

This is another post that, although it’s written for self-publishers, can just as easily be used by all writers. A great checklist to keep in mind when revising.

Picture Books

Only One Published Book? Aaack!

What picture book writers can do on library/school visits if they only have one published book.

Do You Want to Write Books for Children?

This post covers some common misconceptions and mistakes made by picture book writers and how you can fix/avoid them.

Marketing

Tips on Marketing Your Novel

Literary agent Natalie Fischer shares her best tips on marketing your novel, from the pre-sale phase (before you even sign a publisher) right through to the book release. Perfect for any writer at any stage of the process.

Eleven Deadly Sins of Online Promotion for Writers

Another one for writers in any stage of the process, including those who are seeking to attract an agent. 11 things you should never do when you’re promoting your writing online.

NaNoWriMo!

9 Ways to Prepare for the National Novel Writing Month

This would have to be the BEST post I’ve ever come across on preparing for NaNoWriMo. It doesn’t talk about outlines, but rather how to prepare yourself mentally and organise yourself and your life in preparation. It outlines 9 areas you may not have considered in the lead up to NaNoWriMo and provides questions to ask yourself to help get yourself prepared. It was written by 5-time NaNoWriMo-er and awesome writer/editor/publisher, Jodi Cleghorn.

5 tips for NaNoWriMo Success

Five quick tips for helping you achieve your NaNoWriMo goal.

NaNoWriMo Starts Right Here right Now

Some advice from a past NaNowriMo winners on how to get past the NaNoWriMo finish line.

My NaNoWriMo 2011 Tips

Some tips for succeeding at NaNoWriMo from a two-time NaNoWriMo winner. (I personally think the 1st tip is an especially important one to remember.)

For those who are participating in NaNoWriMo this year, good luck!

Finding Time to Write: 3 Tips for Writing with Kids

With the goal of writing fifty thousand words in a month for NaNoWriMo next month, I’ve had a lot of people say things like, “I’d love to do NaNoWriMo, but I just wouldn’t have the time” or “How do you find the time to write?” But I think one of the best things I ever learned from doing NaNoWriMo for the first time was that the time is there, you just have to learn to find it and use it effectively.

The first year I did NaNoWriMo I had a VERY active nearly-three-year-old boy who had grown out of naps, an eight month old baby AND I was teaching part time. No, I didn’t write fifty thousand words that November, but I did write twenty-five thousand. The days I taught were usually zero word count days, as by the time I got home from teaching, cooked dinner, organised kids for bed, etc. I was just plain worn out. But I was proud of my twenty five thousand words — it was twenty five thousand more words than I had at the start of the month, and by January I had finished writing the first draft. PLUS I learned A LOT about managing my writing time effectively.

Currently I’m a busy mum of two (and one on the way) running between preschool, swimming lessons, playgroup, grocery shopping, etc. On top of that, although I’m not currently teaching, I’m helping my husband run a dairy farm by doing all the paperwork. Plus I do all the cooking, cleaning, washing, etc. BUT I still get writing done.

How do I find time to write?

Easy answer: Have you seen my house? It’s not going to win any prizes for neatness. I do have to balance it though. So here are three of the ways I make time.

1. Write after the kids go to bed at night.

My kids go to bed at around 7pm every night, so once they’re in bed it’s a good time to get some writing done (depending how tiring the day has been–sometimes I just want to collapse in front of the TV or get lost in a book). I know other mums who get up an extra hour early before their kids get up to get some writing time in. This doesn’t work for me because 1. My kids are early risers (ie: 6am) and 2. I am so not a morning person. Work out what’s best for you: if your kids are late to bed, late to rise, try getting up an hour early to write, or if your kids are like mine, early to bed, early to rise, try doing some writing at night.

2. Write after lunch/at lunch.

This is my second best writing time. My kids tend to have some quiet time around this time of day. When they still had naps, this was usually naptime. Sometimes my youngest still has naps if she’s had a big morning out (like today). As for when they’ve grown out of naps, they still have some quiet time, whether it’s quiet play with their toys in their bedroom/the loungeroom or some downtime watching a Wiggles DVD or ABC for Kids. My oldest loves being outside, so he’ll often go out for a play in the backyard. Sometimes I’ll get my laptop out on the kitchen table and write while we eat lunch. If you’re working, you can always get some writing done on your lunchbreak.

3. Computer placement.

This could mean having your computer in the same room where your kids play, eg: the loungeroom, so you can write while they play. I had this set up at my old house and it worked really well. It’s not possible where I am now as the loungeroom is too small, but I do have it set up so I can see straight into the loungeroom. I also use my laptop so I can sit in the loungeroom/dining room to write. I like to have a view outside since my son loves playing outside and that way I can watch him. Of course, be prepared for distraction. While sometimes my children will play happily for small blocks of time, more often than not they like to climb on my knee and watch me type or ask for something to eat every few minutes. It can be hard to keep any writing momentum going, but I still get little bits and pieces written.

P.S. It’s so tempting to use quiet time to catch up on Facebook/Twitter, read blogs, play games, etc., but you’d be surprised how much writing you can get done by just disconnecting from the internet or using a computer/laptop that doesn’t have internet.

But what about the housework?

1. Do what you can with the kids underfoot, so when they’re not, you can write.

I found it’s easier to do housework with kids distracting me, than trying to write when they’re distracting me. So instead of hanging washing while they nap, I’ll take the kids outside to play and then when they nap, I write. Involve the kids in what you are doing. My kids love passing me clothes to hang on the line, they love standing on chairs at the kitchen bench to watch me prepare dinner (especially if they get to eat pieces of chopped carrot and cauliflower) and they love pretending the vacuum cleaner is a monster chasing them.

2. I’ve now got a whiteboard where I write up what I want to achieve for the day.

I have a section for the farm business, a section for housework, and a section for writing. For example, on the board today I have: FARM – call electricity company, update records for workers’ hours; HOUSEWORK – Do a load of washing, do dishes, fold and put away washing, clean bathroom; WRITING – 300 words (minimum) on short story, blog post. Priority is given to the business, then housework, then writing (though I often slip writing in between my housework). (I still need to clean the bathroom and do my 300 words today.)

3. Have a day off.

Saturday is my self-designated day off housework. I’ll load the dishwasher and make breakfast and lunch, but that’s about it. I don’t even cook dinner on Saturday, that’s our takeaway night. It’s a quiet cruisy day, and often perfect for catching up on some writing.

Like I said, my house isn’t going to win a prize for neatness, so I’d love to hear any other tips you have for staying on top of the housework.

What do you do to find time to write?

How do you balance work, writing, housework, being a mum?

Helpful Writing Sites and Blog Post August/September 2011

As I didn’t post a Helpful Writing Sites post last month I’m combining my compilation of helpful links from both August and September into one post.

Writing

Identifying Your Fantasy Novel’s Subgenre

When querying your fantasy novel it’s best to be specific about your novel’s subgenre. This post gives a brief outline of each of the fantasy subgenres.

The Big Ol’ Genre Glossary

Taking it a step further than the above post, this post outlines all the various genres and their subgenres. A handy list to have when wanting to check which genre/subgenre your novel falls under.

En Dash vs. Em Dash

Not sure what the difference between them is? This posts helps clear it up.

There is a Learning Curve to Creating Ebooks

For those interested in self-publishing and creating your own ebooks, this post recommends two free programs you can use to convert your MS into ebook format.

Five Telltale Signs of an Amateur Writer

An acquiring editor tells how she can reject an MS in 8 seconds and lists the five telltale signs of an amateur writer.

10 Words Editors Hate

Be careful about using these ten words in your MS, as they may very well send your work to the ‘Do Not Publish’ pile. Some may surprise you.

Eight Reasons I Hate Your Book

There seem to be a few negative posts around lately, but helpful, none-the-less. In fact, I found this one to be VERY helpful. Freelance editor and agent intern, Cassandra Marshall, shares eight of the most annoying (and totally fixable) things she comes across in manuscripts. It helped me realise one of the biggest downfalls of my current WIP, it might help you with yours too.

10 Tips for Writing a Short Story

Short story writer, Amanda Lohrey, shares her tips for writing a first-rate short story.

Getting Your Children’s Book Published

A checklist of things you need to do when preparing to send your MS to publishers, specifically for children’s writers.

Besides Using Google, How Can I do Research For My Book?

Sometimes it can be hard to navigate Google to find the information you’re looking for. How can you be sure the information is accurate? This post has some great (and easy) tips on how to find accurate sources of information for your research.

14 Dos and Don’ts for Introducing Your Protagonist

Author Anne R. Allen gives a list of fourteen great points to take into consideration when introducing your story’s protagonist.

Querying/Submitting

Wherein I Answer an Awkward Question

A few months ago I wrote a post called Writers Beware. This post gives the same warning and similar advice to my post, but takes it a step further with some great information about vanity presses pretending to be traditional publishers.

The Biggest Submission Mistakes

Writers Relief interviewed a range of editors to find out what they considered to be the biggest submission mistakes.

Proper Manuscript Format

I’ve bookmarked this page. The post itself is presented as the manuscript would be formatted giving a visual example to go along with the explanation of how a manuscript should be properly formatted. This is especially helpful if a publisher/editor/agent does not have specific submission guidelines for manuscript format or requests standard manuscript format.

Motivation

You’re Kind of a Big Deal

Advice from an author who recently sold her book, and the long journey it took her to get there. She gives hope to those of us who are still hoping to get there some day.

Social Media

The Facebook Author Page: 10 Status Updates to Embrace, 10 to Avoid

Author and Novel Publicity president, Emlyn Chand, outlines the difference between Facebook page status updates that will engage and win you fans (and thus lead to book sales) and status updates that will annoy and drive away fans. In her words, “When it comes to self-promotion, less is more. If you promote yourself graciously, book sales will follow.”

5 Points to Ponder on Pottermore (for Writers)

A look at how writers can use J.K. Rowlings new Pottermore site as an example for creating an engaging website (even if you don’t have Ms. Rowlings budget).

Five Ways Authors Can Promote Books on Facebook

Tips for using your Facebook profile/page to promote your book (in a subtle way).

Book Promotion

Creating Effective Presentations for Schools

Some great tips from picture book author Tania McCartney on doing schools visits to promote your book, including how to keep your audience’s attention, taking age into account and what sort of content to include.

Just for Fun

A Day in the Life of a Writing Mum

If you’re a writing mum like me, I’m sure you will relate!

And one last link, because I just have to share…

You may have noticed a shiny new book cover on the sidebar of my blog for a soon-to-released anthology titled Eighty Nine (which includes my story ‘Eighteen for Life’). It’s a speculative fiction anthology embracing the year that was nineteen eighty nine. One of my fellow authors, Devin Watson, has created this little teaser trailer: Eighty Nine Book teaser trailer.

Helpful Writing Sites and Blog Posts July 2011

It’s been a quiet month here on the blog (due to my family being hit by some nasty illnesses), but I have still been collecting helpful writing sites and blog posts during July to share with you.

Writing

7 Things I’ve Learned So Far

A guest post by author Sydney Salter on seven things she’s learned on her writing journey so far. She has some great advice on rejection and criticism of your work.

How to Write with Kids at Home

As a mum with two young children at home I know how difficult it can be to find five minutes quiet time to get some writing done. This writer/mum offers some tips on keeping the kids occupied so you can write.

4 Writing Crutches That Insult a Reader’s Intelligence

Some great reminders for writers on writing crutches and how to avoid them. (Are you guilty of using too many adverbs or telling instead of showing?)

What Makes for a Great Thriller

Some tips from two thriller authors on the essential elements of a thriller.

Pitching/Queries

Why Pitches Fail

Three reasons why pitches fail.

Self-Publishing

Three Reasons to Self-Publish (and a big one not to!)

Advice for anyone considering self-publishing.

Social Media

What Social Media Stats Should You Include in Your Book Proposal

A look at blog stats agents and publishers deem relevant.

6 Secrets to Writing a Killer Author Bio

On our blogs, Twitter, guest posts, interviews, etc. it’s important to have an author bio. This post gives tips on writing an effective bio.

The 5 Biggest Mistakes Writers Make on their Websites

The five most common (and easily fixed) mistakes writers make on their website.