Friday, December 20, 2013

NaNoWriMo -- Why?

National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo for short, is either the largest concentrated waste of time ever created, or it's the most ingenious idea ever fashioned by editors and self-publishing companies, the prime beneficiaries of such an event.
More than 300,000 would-be authors entered this year.  It’s a mystery as to how many actually met their goal of producing a manuscript of at least 50,000 words, and it's a bigger mystery as to how many of these novels will actually get read.  

For an entire month, husbands disappeared into their dens, kids made their own meals, and employees dozed off at their desks after typing into the night--all to stay on pace with 2,000 words a day. Daily routines were tossed into the air, but somehow NaNoWriMo writers still found time to tell their pseudo-friends on Twitter and Facebook what page they were on--the writer's version of a cyber high five to fellow entrants.
The promoters and participants accept that some amount of “crap” comes out the end of the NaNoWriMo 30-day digestive system.  They say it’s as much about the creative process and getting new talent interested in writing as it is the quality of the manuscripts. And who can argue with bringing more creativity into the world?    
Still, it's my guess there are 300,000 new manuscripts in need of a good editor.  And who knows, with a good scrubbing, maybe several great novels will result from this process.  With 300,000 entrants, the laws of probability come into play.
Now, before a quarter million NaNoWriMo authors point to my  book sales in an attempt to discredit my perception of this event, let me say my comments are not personal.  It’s not about the NaNoWriMo contestants, some of which are among my pseudo-friends on Facebook and Twitter.  It’s about me and the enigmatic attraction to this contest. I’ve never understood it, so I've never entered.  It may be my loss.

But really, couldn’t 300,000 intelligent, creative people find something more constructive to concentrate their efforts on in November?  Don’t any of you play fantasy football?                                          

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Prioritizing Your Time for Writing

Prioritizing your time--everyone has to do it, especially writers. Writing takes time and lots of it.  So, how do you decide where and when to position your writing time?
I’m fortunate to be retired and living off my prior 32 years of hard work, but I know many writers have day jobs, and for them, 9am to 5pm is taken. So, prioritization of their remaining time is even more important.  
My approach for prioritizing time doesn’t apply universally to all writers.  I recognize there are writers who are moms with young kids, doctors, adults caring for elderly parents, firefighters, teachers, and people from other challenging walks of life.  Demands on people’s time vary greatly.  I get that, and I’m not saying my approach works for everyone.  I’m just saying everyone needs to prioritize.  Consider my ideas as food for thought—nothing more.
I’ve found I need to arrange my time into two buckets: my time outside of writing and the time I specifically dedicate to writing. 
My activities outside of writing are grouped and prioritized as follows:
1.      Family and Friends - Time with family and friends always takes top priority. It doesn’t really matter what form or how long it takes.
2.      Exercise - At 60, taking care of my aging body is a high priority.  I dedicate 30 to 60 minutes a day to stay in shape. Still, you won’t see me in any of those bare-chested, cowboy and firefighter photos posted by romance authors on Facebook and Google+.     
3.     Home Care - Shit just happens and you can’t put it off. Caring for things associated with home ownership takes time.  Anyone who owns a home knows what I’m talking about.
4.     Vacations - Everyone needs to get away, even if it’s just once or twice a year on a three-day weekend. My wife and I try to take several trips each year, alone, and to places not associated with work or to visit family. But I have to admit, I’ve done some writing while on vacations.
5.      Writing - This is where writing activities fit into my list.
6.      Hobbies - Whatever free time I have after the above, I spend on my hobbies.  
From this list, it appears writing is low priority for me, but in reality, I spend four to six hours per day writing and with activities associated with writing.  Most of this time is either early morning or late in the evening, allowing plenty of time to be with my wife and to care for the other higher priority items on my list.    
My writing activities are grouped and prioritized as follows:
1.     Writing - Writers need to write. I write novels and short stories. Once I’m into a new book or short story, I spend 75% of my time dedicated to that work, backing away sparingly to update my blog, to read, or for marketing activities.
2.     Blogging – My blogging consists of posting: original articles on writing (like this one), author interviews, short stories, and book reviews.  I find most authors have a blog to create a following, and that is the primary purpose for my blog.  I also find it’s a way for readers to review my short stories.  My goal for posting to my blog is one original article per week, one new author interview per week, one original short story per month, and one or two new author book reviews per month.  It’s aggressive, but so far, I’ve been able to stick to that schedule.
3.     Reading – In addition to my casual reading, I commit to one or two new author book reviews per month. As with my author interviews, once I commit, I follow through and will dedicate whatever time is needed to complete the review and get it posted.
4.     Marketing - I wish I had a better approach to marketing my writing.  I wrote about it in a prior blog entry, but admittedly my marketing falls to the bottom of my writing activities. My marketing is just me, but is multifaceted.  You can read more on my approach at It’s Time for a Marketing Plan.
So, that’s enough time dedicated to this blog post. I need to get back to my next book in the Miles Stevens series.