The Written Word

Time Management for Writers

by Fran Lee Strickland @FranLStrickland


As we begin yet another new year I hope everyone is getting their resolutions in order and focusing on the new challenges and opportunities that lie ahead of us.



I’ve been quiet on social media through the holidays because I’ve been working on my suspense novel, Roots That Run Deep, in addition to spending time with family and friends. I took advantage of a few vacation days from my accounting profession amid the hurry and scurry of getting ready for Christmas to work through some plot holes, the sagging middle of the book, and polish up some chapter revisions.

I also took some time to think about what I want to accomplish in 2016. In order to reach my goals, I have to be intentional with my time because it is such a precious commodity. In the last couple of months, someone shared with me his technique of time management which segments different areas of life into percentages of time then further breaks down that time into tasks. The idea resonated with me because I needed a way to manage my increasingly busy schedule as I juggle a full time job with writing.



I mulled over the initial idea then tweaked it to meet my needs. I discuss the results as a guest blogger on my writing group, the ACFW-South Carolina chapter, website (scwritersacfw.blogspot.com).

You can check out the blog post, Five Ways To Manage the Writing Life, at http://bit.ly/1OiLLgp.


What goals do you want to accomplish this year? Do you know how you are going to find the time to work on them? I would love to hear how you manage your busy schedule!

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Perseverance

by Fran Lee Strickland @FranLStrickland
I’ve been writing my first novel for quite a while now. Actually, long enough that those people close to me and who care, are beginning to think I’m never going to complete it. I admit it has been a more challenging project than I ever imagined. Some people seem to effortlessly churn out story after story, but I know there is no “effortlessly” when it comes to writing.

Writing is hard work.

It takes a lot of perseverance to complete a project as lengthy as writing a novel. So what exactly does it mean to persevere?
The definition of persevere is to stay steady on course through difficulties and obstacles.
Shortly after beginning the novel, my marriage slammed into a block wall and disintegrated. After picking myself up from that unforeseen disruption, I shook off the dust and debris, cleared my head, and continued to write and to study the craft of writing despite moving to a new house, raising a teenage son, and learning to manage my finances on one income.

Because I work full time in accounting, the weekends are usually the only time that I can write. If I lose writing time then it is difficult to make it up during the week unless I give up my lunch break and write, which I’ve done, or give up a couple to three hours of sleep to write, which I’ve done. Perseverance. It’s a painful, exhausting word. But it produces rewards.

I set out to write a novel, but in the process I’ve been drawn to other types of writing that have produced fruit along the way, one of which is this blog. Writing for the blog keeps my writing muscle strengthened and provides a way to communicate with my readers! And though I take time to write for this blog as well as pen a devotion now and then, still, I plug along on the novel, slow and steady, plotting, writing, re-writing, editing, and writing some more. Perseverance pushes me through the derailments, distractions, detours, and discouragements.
So how do you develop perseverance?
I believe perseverance requires three things: A made-up mind, grit, and vision.

1.  A made-up mind
I often think of the story of Daniel and his struggles as a young captive in the court of Nebuchadnezzar. In Daniel 1:8 (NASB) the author states “But Daniel made up his mind that he would not defile himself with the king’s choice food or with the wine which he drank.” The NIV version says he “resolved not to defile himself” and the NKJV version says “But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself.”
If you make up your mind to accomplish something, then you will be less likely to succumb to weariness, discouragement and road blocks. A made-up mind is not easily deterred. The young man, Daniel, was rewarded for his faithfulness to God in his determination not to eat the king’s food that had been sacrificed to idols. If he had not resolved ahead of time to avoid the food, he would have been more likely to cave when hunger gnawed at him. Although Daniel had made up his mind not to do something, a made-up mind works the same way when you determine to do something.

2. Grit
Grit is the muscle behind a made-up mind. It is the strength of character and endurance needed to plow forward through obstacles that inevitably come between you and your goal. Grit requires a fortitude of spirit, a hunkering down. Many times grit is born from desire. In the above example, Daniel’s desire to please God was what kept him steady on his course. In other words, it boils down to how desperately you want to accomplish something.

3. Vision
Perseverance is for the long haul. Envisioning the outcome of a goal sets the tone for success because vision gives a glimpse of the reward and whets the appetite for a soul that will not be satisfied until the reward is experienced. If you don’t know where you want to be at the end of whatever project you are working on as Yogi Berra is quoted as saying, “You might end up somewhere else.”
So, how desperate are you to accomplish your writing project or any other goal that you have set for yourself? Do you really want it badly enough to continue working toward it come what may? I encourage you to write down your vision so that when the journey gets long or you get tired or obstacles roll onto your path in front of you, you will be able to see the end result ahead and keep working toward your goal.


A Writer's Discipline


Isn’t it interesting how we writers can always find something to do whether it be checking email, feeding our Pinterest addiction, sweeping cobwebs out of the ceiling corners? Anything but writing!


Why do we do that thing which doesn’t have to be done right this minute rather than doing that thing which we can’t live without if we don’t do it? As I listened to a Charles Stanley sermon yesterday, the reason was drilled into me in a single word. Discipline.


            Writing is like any other area of our life. It requires intentional discipline, especially if the writer has another full time job that pays the bills. It is easy to think, “Oh well, I’m tired this evening, or I’m soooo sleepy this morning. I’ll just lay this little novel thing aside and work on it later when I feel like it.” Unfortunately, one too many times and we’ve created a habit. A bad one.


            So, what does a beginning writer do to establish good writing habits and unmovable discipline when there is no time clock to punch, no boss to fire you, and no threat of loss of paycheck since there is no steady stream of payment anyway because the project lies dormant in your computer? And, if you are like me, that writer in you is a free spirit that just wants to daydream and make up new interesting people in your head. You certainly don’t want to dampen their spirits by slowing down the motion and confining their conversations to the conventions of writing guidelines. Ugh.


But, it must be done. Eventually, if you are to become a writer who is taken seriously by others in the industry, you must settle down into your seat, and begin to arrange words on the page. So how do you tame your free spirit and develop discipline? Discipline requires a plan. The following steps are essential in developing that plan.




1.     Write down your goals or objectives for your writing project.
2.     Add a timeline to meet the goal. 

3.     Then, create a writing schedule. For instance, what days of the week will you dedicate to write, what time of the day, and for how long?
4.     Share your schedule with friends and family. If they are made aware of your schedule, then they should respect that time and your interruptions will be minimized.
5.  Post your schedule in an area that is visible to you on a regular basis. It should taunt you when you are doing something else during writing time.
6.  Finally, keep track of your progress. Take note of when you comply with the schedule and when you don't. This process will make you feel guilty, if nothing else, and spur you to action.
7.     Reward yourself. Each day that you discipline yourself to follow your schedule, make sure you do something fun after the writing session. Eventually, you will begin to crave the reward enough to put in the work required to get it.

Like exercise, with writing, the end result is desired, but the activity involved is sometimes dreaded. We must push through the tough stuff to get to the other side. And that requires discipline!




Writers - Develop a Relationship With Your Readers


Writing fiction is more complicated than ever. Gone are the days when an introverted lover of words can just lock herself into a room and hammer out page after page until the two most loved words in a writer's vocabulary are typed..... The End. These days an aspiring writer, or even an established one for that matter, must interact with her readers along the journey. There is blogging to be done. Pins to be pinned. And status updates to be updated.


The writing should be the hard part, but I am quickly learning that it may very well be the easy portion of this journey. Technology today provides so much opportunity to meet the world while sitting comfortably in your living room. Stepping out from behind my page of words to greet the public is, to say the least, somewhat intimidating, but I am convinced that God gives us the grace to do what He has called us to do.

So it is with reservation, but confidence, that I'm taking classes on blogging, learning about self promotion, marketing, publicity, and making connections with published authors, editors, and agents. If you are passionate about being a writer and are seeking guidance about the steps you should take, from the actual writing to reader relationship, I would like to share some of what I've learned while writing my first novel. And, yes, I'm still working on it. Because of a full time career in finance management my writing time is restricted to evenings and weekends.

1. First of all, pray. Ask God to guide your words and to send the right people to help you along the way. He will. I am still amazed at the number of well established people in the industry whom I have met within the last two years.

2. Join a local writer's group. The ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) organization www.acfw.com has regional chapters all over the country. They are a wonderful resource for taking online classes, networking with other writers, and learning about writing opportunities.

3. Attend writing conferences. You will learn things you didn't even know you needed to know and your attendance will indicate to those potential editors that you are serious about your writing. Forking out dollars for the registration fee, accommodations and food shows you are willing to make the investment necessary to establish your writing career.

4. Join a critique group. Fortunately, my writing group, the  ACFW-SC Chapter, provides a speaker for each meeting but also reserves time for critique sessions. Having someone critique your work and give good knowledgeable feedback is invaluable. It will sharpen your skills.

5. Think about your platform as you write. Select themes and ideas from your story that you can use to create Pinterest boards and to blog about. Your readers will want to interact with you about the characters, settings, and ideas.

6. Learn to blog. It will be your form of expression. Your readers will get to know you and you will earn their trust. Reveal things about yourself. Let them know you are interested in them. What was it Theodore Roosevelt said? People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care. For more information on managing the social media environment visit The Write Conversation.

Writing is a two way relationship. Long after you have penned the words "The End", the story preceding those words will linger in your reader's minds and they will have questions. After all, isn't that why we write? To stimulate the mind, entertain the senses and encourage our readers. In return they will motivate us to keep writing. How many times have you heard someone say, "I can't wait until her next book comes out". Can you imagine any more beautiful words?






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