Friday, January 23, 2009

Working 9 to 5: How To Stay on Schedule

Whether you’re a professional writer, trying to get published, or even a hobbyist it’s important to give yourself a schedule/deadline. It’s easy to tell yourself, “Yeah, I’ll get to chapter 18 after this episode of ____,” or “Before work, I’ll definitely get to those rewrites,” but never actually sit your butt in the chair and do it. I used to be that person. Sure, I wrote, but it took me twice as long to reach my goal. Daily life, both my professional and social, seemed to always get in the way.

By keeping track, either with word count, page count or by chapter, you can keep yourself honest. The key to a good schedule is to make it challenging, yet realistic. If you don’t think you can write a chapter every day, or even every week, don’t schedule at such a fast pace. You’ll only disappoint yourself and get so frustrated in the end you never get anything accomplished.

Currently, I’ve been working at finishing one chapter in two days. To be honest, it’s a faster paced schedule than I would normally tackle, but fits with my work in progress. I wanted everything fresh in my mind, keeping the story fluid so that I wouldn’t have weird gaps or forget how my characters felt from chapter to chapter.

So, how do I keep track of my schedule? I’ve used many ways. Excel seems to work if you are going to go the word count route. I’ve been using iCal recently to track of my chapters. So far, it seems to be working. I haven’t been too stressed out about it; yet know if I don’t finish half of a chapter one day, I have to write the whole thing the next. It keeps me focused and on my toes.

Here’s the great part…the reward. I’ve talked with quite a few writers that give themselves rewards when hitting schedule goals. It could be as simple as watching an episode of your favorite TV Show, a cookie or even a song downloaded from iTunes. Whatever makes your heart flutter; it’s a way for patting yourself on the back and telling yourself “GREAT JOB!”

So, do you keep a schedule? If so, what’s your favorite method of keeping track and when you hit your goals, do you reward yourself? We’d love to hear from you!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Critique Partners--The Many Faces

I firmly believe that any writer should have at least one critique partner. Or more. In the case of Critique Partners, more is always better.

Good Critique Partners are like unicorns--rare, magical, with superpowers that will shock you.

No, really, it's true. If you can find a Crit Partner who you click with, who gets your writing, but who is also willing to be brutal at times when you are totally sucking, you are in Magical Unicorn Territory.

There are many different kinds of Crit Partners, and today, I am going to outline (and acknowledge the awesomness) of all of mine.

First up, of course, is the Crit Group I belong to, YA Edge, which this blog is an offshoot of. Tami, Tracy, Kitty and I crit each other on a chapter by chapter basis. Once a week, I'll get three wonderful critiques about whatever chapter I posted. What's really interesting about Crit Groups is they kind of evolve. In the beginning, when we didn't know each other very well, we were super polite about criticism and rarely would modify the actual language of the author, but rather give suggestions. But as we all got to know each other, become friends and become more familiar with writing styles, we got a lot less polite and way more involved. Nowadays I know that when I open a crit from one of them, there will be a ton of corrections and suggestions and comments, but I also know that most of that red is making my book SO MUCH BETTER. 

Second up is J, my crit partner who critiques my books as a whole (as I do hers). She doesn't get the book until at least the second draft. J is amazing and insightful, she always gives incredible suggestions on my heavy emotional scenes and is never afraid of telling me when the writing is getting too dramatic. 

Thirdly is A, who I've known since I was 12 and who has a ton of very embarrasing stories about me and my teenaged writing. Because I write out of order, A is the person who gets my books first in pieces through IM. Usually I have to give her a quick back-story to the scene, and then she reads it. Usually I accompany the scene with a question like "Is this too sappy?" or "Am I pushing a line here?" A will read the scene, answer my questions and give suggestions to make it better. A's quick saves and willingness to spend months reading bits and pieces of a book, not to mention listening to me talk about my characters  like they are real people make the writing process so much easier to handle.

Fourthly is MOMRA! aka the woman who gave birth to me in a cabin in the woods, aka my very cool Mom. MOMRA! is a journalist and copyeditor and takes great delight in scattering my manuscripts with RNA (Romance Novel Alerts). She is the Queen of Cutting Sap, Empress of the Rolled Eye and Princess of Correcting The Comma Splice. My mom gets the book before it goes out to agents. Usually this is the time where I have had every other Crit Partner go through the book and I've incorporated all their comments. I'm feeling pretty good about the book. And then MOMRA! shows me the errors of my ways and I end up rewriting the book two more times until I'm sick of it. It's a pretty hilarious process. We get into heated arguments over character choice and she writes increasingly irritated notes to me about how she taught me all this grammar, how can I not remember any of it?

There are many different kind of Crit Partners--what's important to keep in mind is that when you have a bunch of really great ones, ALWAYS AT LEAST LISTEN TO THEIR ADVICE. Sometimes they will save you from yourself. 

Monday, January 19, 2009

Author Website or Free Social Networking Tools?

Um – why not both?

I just invested in a domain name for my pen name, Judith Graves. I haven’t quite got my official website up yet, but will in the very near future. I decided the clean look of a domain like is just so much easier to market than a lengthy Myspace or Facebook URL.

In a few months I should have a booktrailer completed for Under My Skin, thanks to Madison at M2 Productions. After viewing other trailers, I cringed at the thought of plastering a ton of URLs at the end of mine, when a single domain will do. From my official site I can direct visitors to the freebees of Myspace and others.

When it comes to promoting your writing, it is convenient (and damn fun) to use free sources, but it is still important to have a domain name and official website for marketing purposes. Myspace and Facebook pages can be hacked and altered, these sites could shut down, or become obsolete. For $15 a year, I think the stability of a domain is worth it.

So – do you have an official website?