Category Archives: Time and Space

Are you surrounded by useless clutter?

An Interesting Mess – (c) Anna Simpson

A friend of mine posted an article on Facebook called Clear the Clutter; Get Rid of Unneeded Toys. The author Carlo Rotella talks about paring down the collection of toys in most homes and since this is something that has been on my mind lately (though not specifically with toys since I don’t own any), I thought I would share both his thoughts and mine here.

In the article, Carlo says:

…the United States has 3.1 percent of the world’s children but buys 40 percent of all toys sold worldwide. Obviously, American kids can’t possibly extract all the play-value out of that many toys, most of which end up piled somewhere.

That got me thinking about how drastically a family could cut back on its toys. So, an exercise: You’re marooned indefinitely on a desert island with your kids, who are under 12. (If you don’t have kids, mentally borrow some that you know well; if your kids are older than 12, think back to when they weren’t.) You can bring five toys. There are trees to climb, waves to swim in, and animals to hunt and evade, so there’s no need for specialized sports equipment. You get to bring a separate box of books and musical instruments, so just concentrate on the toys — and nothing that requires electricity, since there won’t be any.

Personally, I know quite a few of the toys my parents bought for me during my childhood ended up ignored and the one I held onto into my teens (and would have held onto longer if I didn’t stupidly lose him) was my teddy bear. This bear didn’t do anything special and, in fact, didn’t even look much like a bear, but I loved that thing more than any of my other toys. I was seventeen when I lost him and I cried. Bawled. Like the three-year-old I’d suddenly become again.

Why, then, do we fill our houses with things that, if push came to shove, we wouldn’t miss? We waste time, money, energy, and space collecting useless pieces of plastic in the hopes that, what? I don’t know.

While living in Tallahassee for school, I was guilty of the same thing. I had a two bedroom townhouse that I lived in for eight years and over eight years you collect a lot of crap if you’re not paying attention. When I finally left Tally, 90% of that stuff ended up being donated to Good Will, given away to friends, or straight-up trashed. And you know what? I don’t miss any of it. Two years later, I can’t even tell you what most of it was because I don’t remember.

This week I switched bedrooms within the same house and did it again. I got rid of some things that were pretty, but useless and also a lot of things I was holding onto for sentimental reasons, yet could barely remember what those reasons were. Now, literally everything I own and care about can fit into one decent-sized bedroom and it might be a good way for everyone to think. I read once about someone in New York City who lived in a great, but tiny, apartment. She loved clothes, but she knew she didn’t have the space to store them so every time she bought a new pair of shoes or a new dress, she had to think: am I willing to get rid of something I already own to make room for this?

With the advent of the digital age, music, book, and movie collections can grow to astronomical sizes without taking up an insane amount of space (a major bonus). Look around your room/apartment/house and take stock. Do you need everything you have? How many of the things you own would you honestly carry with you onto a desert island? If you don’t need it but you want it, why do you want it? What physical or emotional purpose does it serve? Sometimes, in some ways, wants can be just as important as needs, but you also have to be able to recognize when those wants change and the things you’ve gathered no longer serve the same purpose.

Letting go is necessary and sometimes, it feels fantastic.

And, because I can’t seem to compose a single post without mentioning writing at least once, this theory is also a good way to look at your novels when editing. Get rid of the clutter and let the true story shine through. 😀

Time: Watch Your Addictions!

The internet is a black hole that sucks away time. OMG. Seriously.

Yesterday I meant to play around with some settings on my site, changing it up a little to keep the links current and everything. Then the internet attacked and I got pulled into the wormholes called Pinterest and Blogger and it spat me back out around 10:30 last night.

Umm… oops.

Maintaining a web presence is important–imperative, even–but the danger is letting it take over my time completely. Spending too much time perfecting a website isn’t going to help me write books and having an amazing Pinterest page with thousands of photos… well, no, actually. That might help me write books.

ANYWAY, my point. I have one. Most of the time setting time limits on things like Facebook and Pinterest is a good idea. However, every so often letting your brain unfocus for a while is a good thing too. I think yesterday was one of those days for me. Let’s hope I can get mysefl back on track tonight, though. 🙂

Productivity: An Epic Fail

Because of an IT catastrophe at my office, I’ve been working from home this whole week. I hoped this would give me more time to work on creative things like the sequel to my finished novel and really cool blog posts…. but somehow it hasn’t. I did manage to write a short story on Monday which I really like, but other than that I haven’t gotten much non-work work done. I don’t know why it is, but I’m much more productive on my writerly tasks when I’m at my office… which is the one place I shouldn’t even be working on my writerly projects.

I can definitely see why so many full-time writers don’t write out of their houses. Your home is tailor made to distract you from doing productive things. Your favorite books, games, movies, music, and whatever else are all gathered in one place for you. So is a nice comfy bed just begging you to take a nap! So much temptation in one place! I haven’t been good at ignoring it this week. Then again, I haven’t set myself any specific deadlines for any of my projects, so that probably doesn’t help either…

Writing: Ending Scenes And Chapters

Not too long ago, I found a post on Wordplay about rude chapter breaks. At first, just from reading the title, I was confused. How in the world can a chapter break be rude? But after reading (and watching) the post, it started to make sense.

Have you ever been reading a book and, for one reason or another, had to put it down? Of course you have. It happens even when we wish the rest of the world would leave us alone so we can find out what happens next. Eventually, you pick the book back up and continue reading, but what if it’s been a while since you last delved into the author’s world? What if you’ve kind of forgotten where you left off?

Author KM Weiland points out that one common, and easily fixable, error authors make when starting a new chapter or scene is starting with a pronoun. Sure, if the reader is continuing straight from the previous section that “He” “She” or “They” probably makes perfect sense. But if not, you could unintentionally be creating undue confusion. Quickly and subtly establish the who/what/where/when/why in the first few lines of the section and even readers who slowly move through books a scene at a time won’t get lost in the jump.

Weiland makes a good point, but this isn’t the only way to create a rude break. Jumping into the head of a new character without warning, falling into a dream or a flashback without some clue to set the stage, cliffhangers that continuously aren’t resolved… all of these have at one time or another annoyed me while reading a book. So, as an author, be aware of your breaks and use them wisely. Rules were made to be broken and, of course, all of these “errors” can be used effectively, but more often than not it’s better to keep from annoying your readers.

Have any pet peeves when it comes to scene and chapter jumps?

Promoting: Don’t Ignore Social Media

With a new site popping up every day (or so it seems) trying to keep up with your many social media profiles can feel like a full time job in and of itself.

Building your “platform” is becoming more and more important. It used to only be key
in nonfiction proposals (especially self-help books) where the audience usually didn’t buy a book from a name they hadn’t heard before, but now more and more agents are expecting debut authors to be working behind the scenes on building up their platform. Now, in this case, platform almost always translates to web presence. This is looking at a very narrow part of the actual meaning of the word platform, but it’ll work for today. Plus, it’s usually all agents and publishers expect from a non-published author.

From the agent’s point of view (according to a recent interview I heard), you can get away with  having a simple, free website with your name, email adress, bio, and a little bit about what you write, but you should still have something with your name on it floating out in cyber space. You can do this very easily through free platforms like Blogger, but you have to be careful about this because people expect a blog to be active. A “dead” blog is usually seen as a bad sign. Also, consider buying the domain name for your name (or pen name) before someone else does. You can set up a Blogger or WordPress blog to redirect to a custom domain name (which is what I’ve done on my site). Even if you don’t know how to set up the website, the cost is minimal and you’ll have it down the road when you need it. But if you don’t want to mess around with websites and domain names, try to at least set yourself up on popular social media sites.

I mentioned Robert Brewer’s blog My Name Is Not Bob the other day and how much fantastic advice he had on that blog for writers. One of the topics he speaks about is self-promotion and online web presence, especially through social media. A relatively recent post called The Ultimate Guide To Social Media For Writers is a pretty detailed look at, well, social media for writers.

A caveat. While you should definitely make time to set up profiles on multiple sites and visit them all at least once a week, don’t let your entire day get eaten by the interweb. Your main job is to write, so that should still be your focus. No matter how popular you are online, you can’t get published if you don’t have anything to publish!

Domain name sites (a few of them, anyway):

Instructions on setting up your domain name

Happy promoting!

Blogging: For The Next Month

Until the middle of May (which, coincidentally, also happens to be the week after my birthday), I will be more than a little swamped with my “real life.” In the next few weeks this swamping will include closing an incredibly complicated and detail-heavy issue of the magazine I work for, finishing up classes, dress rehearsals, and recitals for the dance classes I take and teach, working on jewelry creations so I can get enough stock to set up a website, trying to finish the first draft of the story Lani and I are working on, and… I’m sure there’s something else I’m forgetting right now. Fitting in a social life of some sort so I don’t turn into a complete recluse, maybe?

Anyway, I am going to try not to disappear entirely, but I thought a heads up would be nice. In the meantime, I leave you with a little bit of funny that is also something I swear the artist plucked right out of my head. Gotta love XKCD. 😀


Life: Playing Catch Up

It seems like whenever I get rolling on a project, something comes along that completely derails me. This time the project is my novel with co-conspirator Lani Woodland and the derailment is a full six days (including weekend) of non-stop work.

Now I need to figure out what I missed out on in my new novel project and what work (for the job I actually get paid for) fell by the wayside while I was out of town. Just trying to get it organized is a little overwhelming. Why is it that whenever I play catch up I somehow end up further behind?

Despite my derailment, my project with Lani is actually moving ahead at a clipping pace! Kind of like those adorable pigs! 😀 We’re about a third of the way through a very rough first draft and I think it’s shaping into something interesting and definitely worth sharing. Eventually. Maybe. After a lot of editing. 🙂

Also, don’t forget to enter my giveaway! Only a few days left until the prizes are awarded.

Time and Space: My New Setup

I’ve been spending more and more time at my desk working on one project or another. Because of this, I decided it was past time to upgrade from the desk I’ve had since I was about twelve. It worked well enough then, but it was not built with a computer in mind and just… Yeah. It was way past due. So I went shopping and now have a whole new setup! This includes a new desk chair (OMG YAY! I can’t even explain how uncomfortable my last one was.) I had to rearrange a lot because the many drawers of my old desk are definitely lacking in my new one, but otherwise I’m very happy with the result:

Writing: My NaNoWriMo Novel

Remember that NaNoWriMo novel I mentioned yesterday? I think my participation is becoming more compulsory because I officially have 10,094 words. Right now, looking at that total (the sum of only two days of work), I’m having a hard time believing it. 

At the same time, I shouldn’t be quite so shocked. I know by now how my writing happens: in strange, unpredictable bursts fueled by a random idea or inspired moment. If that jolt of inspiration stays with me, I can shoot through a novel like a bullet train. If I only envision a particular scene, the going gets a lot tougher. This process is why part of me dreads working under contract and deadline. The writing I don’t do while inspired, the stuff I plug onto the keyboard just to get a word count, usually sucks.

Luckily, in this particular case, I have practically the entire book figure out already. Not just figured out, but planned, investigated, questioned, fleshed out, and outlined (in a sense). Although I do need to grow the story, change certain details and certain reasonings that won’t work in this new format, the bulk of the story is there, ready for me to write. What does this mean for you? That I’ll probably be posting about my progress a lot this month and won’t post about any of the books I planned to read and review until December. Maybe even January. I’m considering posting a word count meter on the sidebar, but I have to find one first.

All in all, this much progress so fast is extremely exciting and a little nerve wrecking. Can I keep this pace up through the whole book? I really hope so. I guess we’ll see, though, won’t we?

Edited to add: Found a really great, simple meter! Progress is now being monitored on the sidebar.

Writing: NaNoWriMo

I just realized that I may inadvertently be participating in National Novel Writing Month…

How does something like participation in a huge, nationally recognized, and somewhat frantic race to the novel-length finish line happen inadvertently? When the beginning of the program just happens to coincide with the presentation of a dilemma that involves finishing a novel in a rather short amount of time.

I’ve never signed up for NaNoWriMo before (and I don’t think I’m going to actually sign up now either), but the timing of this whole thing seemed extraordinarily coincidental. Fortuitous, maybe? I’m hoping so.

I know this is all rather vague, but as nothing is final yet one way or the other I don’t want to mention something that might not happen. Still, it was such an odd coincidence I couldn’t help sharing.