Category Archives: writing

Revised Early Schedule Week 1 Results

These post titles are getting so boring. And confusing. They need better names.

Let’s call this one “Cordelia.”

So as it turns out, waking up at 6:00 is better than dragging my butt out of bed at 5:30. And (surprising no one) I still have trouble getting up when the alarm goes off.

Or to be more precise, I have trouble not with the getting up so much as with the not hitting snooze and getting back under the covers for cozy snoozy this-is-the-best-part-of-my-day time.

I know. That’s sad. But it really is the best. Like, to the point where I’m considering setting the alarm for 5:30 again just so I can hit the snooze three times in rapid succession and buy myself a sweet half-hour in that magical land where my brain gives not a single rodent’s heinie about productivity.

Or reality.

*sigh* I’m happy just thinking about it.

What was I saying?

Right. Anyway, it was a pretty okay week. Nothing earth-shattering in terms of productivity, but I did the best I could. I think. Mostly.

  • I tracked 14 hours of work, which included some planning on a new book for NaNoWriMo, planning and starting revisions on my YA project, inputting fixes on the book I recently sent to beta readers, getting cover art almost done for my pen name’s next book, and updating the autoresponder messages people get when they sign up for pen name’s newsletter (which I actually hadn’t done since before the first book in her series came out. Whoopsie doodle.)
  • I mostly worked on the couch this week and not at my desk, and I’m not even a little bit sorry about it. It was amazing. And cozy. Coziness is wonderful.
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And it makes Jack very happy.

  • I did yoga twice, walked Jack almost every day, and meditated for 10 minutes all seven days of the week.
  • I did homework with the kids, shrink-wrapped all of the windows on the main floor of the house (with mixed success, but I hope it will help a little with the heating bills this winter), and once again did not let anyone starve. I think.
  • I flipped my work hours to the afternoon two days this week when mornings were getting too crazy for me to feel like I could reasonably fit work in before lunch, and my work felt much easier and more flow-y. Afternoons are actually a much better time for me to work, but come with the disadvantages of it being a lot harder to stop when I need to (and me being kind of irritable about it, TBH) and not allowing me to recharge and switch gears before the kids come home. But for my next schedule experiment, I might try doing that more regularly. You never know if you don’t try, right?

Maybe after Halloween.

Which means NaNoWriMo.

Annnnnd I’m also looking at doing the Whole30 program for November. As in the eating-whole-foods-with-lots-of-veggies-and-meat-but-no-grains-dairy-added-sugar-or-alcohol thing. I’m not exactly the queen of willpower, but I might be able to do it. I want to see whether changing my eating habits could lessen the frequency of my migraines and help with my energy levels. Now, if it turns out that dairy is contributing to my acne or bread is causing brain fog, I might decide it would have been better not to know. I mean, don’t tell my husband, but I’m only with him because I found out I couldn’t legally marry a cheese croissant. This would be unthinkable.

But I think I owe it to myself to find out. And just imagine how entertaining my blog posts will be when I’m detoxing from my sugar addiction and I hate EVERYTHING!

Yaaaaaay!

What the heck is wrong with me. Seriously.

Plan for next week: Stick to modified early schedule. Continue NaNo planning during early morning hours, continue Phoenix revisions later in the morning, do pen name publication stuff in the early afternoon, then try to make time to recharge before the offspring invade the premises.*

 


* My children, not the band. And the fact that Monday and Tuesday are both P.D. days (no school) should make this week an interesting one.

 

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Godawful Early Schedule Results (Week 4 and Overall)

The one thing I can say about last week is that it happened.

It wasn’t a great one in terms of work hours. Monday was Thanksgiving, so I worked a bit in the early morning and then did nothing more for the rest of the day. Nothing work-related, at least. A migraine hit that evening (after I’d said I was thankful for not having one… that’ll learn me), and I was dealing with them off and on all week. I lost all of Wednesday to one.

But you know what? It happens. It’s a thing I’m prepared for, or that I at least should be by now. It’s nothing worth whining about, especially when things could be so much worse.

And there’s a bright side.

The hours I did work were pretty darned good. I was productive during work hours. After I decided to go ahead and try outlining my scenes in even more depth than I usually do, figuring out the little turning points and conclusions in bullet form instead of in the flow of trying to actually write the scene, my hourly word count crept up to 1600 or even 1700 wph (it’s usually closer to 1200 on a decent day).

Now, I haven’t done the math on whether this is actually more efficient. After all, that planning takes time, and that needs to be added to the time I’m actually spending writing the scene. In fact, it probably takes a little more this way.

But it feels less frustrating and wasteful, and that’s important for keeping me motivated. And it saves me from scenes that wander around too much before getting to the point, which means I might save time in revisions. So that’s cool.

Whatever keeps me going is good at this point.

Good lesson.

ALSO…

This makes 4 weeks of the Godawful Early Schedule. I’ve done my best to get up at 5:30 in the morning, to work for 90 minutes before the kids get up and then again for a few hours after they’re out the door. It’s time to look at my conclusions.

  • Getting some work done before breakfast/before anyone else gets up and I have to be a responsible adult is TOTALLY A GOOD IDEA. I absolutely want to continue with this. Knowing that I’ve accomplished something even if I have stuff going on later (or everything goes off the rails) is such a boost to my day. And having afternoons free means I have time for things like meeting people for coffee… or letting my schedule flip itself upside down if I need to take the morning off instead for an appointment.

BUT.

  • I miss my old morning routine. I want to make this morning work session a part of it, not a substitution for it. Meditation, planning my day, stretching, and reading are all important, too, and help me feel grounded and prepared for whatever comes later. So I need to get back to that.
  • 5:30 is just too early for me. Even after 4 weeks I’m still finding that my alarm clock is yanking me out of dreams instead of light sleep (never mind the fact that I don’t like having to go to bed at exactly the same time as my kids… or before them). 90 minutes of work focus is turning out to be a bit much to ask of my brain before food, caffeine, meds, etc. I thought I needed that big stretch of time, but as it turns out, 60 minutes is almost as good in terms of word count.

So here’s the next big plan:

  • wake up at 6:00. Drink water. Meditate 10 minutes.
  • work on planning/drafting new pen name project for 60 minutes in two 25-minute sprints with a 5-minute break between and at the end (aim for 1500 words). Get up, do floor exercises/stretches on breaks. Make notes for tomorrow’s writing session. Start making tea/coffee.
  • get kids up at 7:30, go through that whole routine (including eating breakfast).
  • After the kids are gone, take care of exercise* by either walking the dog or doing yoga depending on the weather. And shower, because ew.
  • work on Phoenix revisions from 10:00-noon, working in 25-minute sprints again.
  • After lunch, take care of pen name publication/promo concerns for no more than one hour, then relax, read, go for a walk, rest, or whatever I need to do to recharge.
  • And then the kids come home and I do the houseworks and makes the suppers and hangs out with the family peoples and all that jazz (try to find time for fun stuff… I’m still working on finding a hobby). Bed around 10:00.

So that’s the goal for the next few weeks. The ideal. We’ll see how it goes. I’ve had a hard time juggling multiple projects in the past, but that doesn’t mean I can’t learn how to to it, especially when I’ve got a couple of natural breaks in my day. Two projects and then an hour for business stuff should be manageable.

We’ve got a few weeks left in October, and I’m going to try to make the most of them.

And then it’ll be November *gasp*. And that means NaNoWriMo *double gasp*. At that point I’ll have to either get my words-per-hour higher in those early morning sessions or make up extra on the weekends (when I’ll have to add sessions anyway… I’m currently not writing on weekends at all). That, or get these revisions off my desk so I can focus entirely on drafting.

Such tension. Such excitement.

If anyone else is doing NaNoWriMo this year, you can add me as a friend. I’m KittySparkes on the site . I probably won’t be on there a whole lot, but I’ll check messages.

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Gratuitous Halloween decor picture.

 

 


*I typed that as “exerscuse.” I make a lot of those.

 

 


The Sticky Stuff

I’ve tried a lot of productivity methods and planners that didn’t work out for me. Here are a few things that have helped. None of them work perfectly or keep me on track all of the time, but they’ve made a huge difference nonetheless. If you have questions or would like to see a separate post on any of them, please let me know!

  • Goal setting. Even if I don’t always hit my deadlines, knowing what I want to accomplish and how/when I intend to get there is the biggest idea that’s helped me in my work. I set goals for finishing books, set 90 day goals for work and home projects, and choose my top three goals for every week and every day.
  • Prioritizing. This connects to those top three daily tasks. By writing down what I’d want to accomplish even if nothing else got done, I remind myself what my priorities are and how I should be spending my time.
  • Weekly planning. Having a nice quality planner that I can decorate (or not) as the mood strikes me makes me want to use it. And taking time on Sundays to get a bird’s eye view of the week ahead helps prevent surprises and crises along the way because I know what’s coming and what I need to accommodate for. I plan meals for the week, too, so I’m not running to the store/scrambling to figure out what to eat/saying “screw it, let’s get McDonald’s” too often.
  • My bullet journal. I’ve tried other daily and weekly planners, and use a pre-printed weekly planner for family stuff. But for my personal needs, nothing beats a blank dot-grid notebook. It holds my long-term goals, project notes, ideas, reference pages for everything from school schedules to clothing sizes, weekly review notes, reading lists, brain dumps, reading notes, monthly/weekly/daily plans… it’s my brain on paper, basically, allowing me to externalize a lot of the things that I’d otherwise forget or be distracted by as I tried to juggle them all in my mind. My daily pages have space for my top 3 tasks, a reminder of the larger goals I’m working toward, to do list (with unfinished tasks migrated to the next day so I don’t lose them), my desired vs actual schedule, notes, and gratitude lists. Weeks include the meal plan, grocery list, goals, a look at next week’s events, and “to do” items I want to transfer to my days. And if I need it to do something else for me, I just create a new page for it or change my week/day’s layout.
  • Figuring out where analogue and digital work best for me. Planning apps, whether it’s iCal for scheduling or Scapple for brainstorming, just don’t work for me. I plan and brainstorm best with a pen in hand and pages I can flip back through, make charts on, doodle all over, and connect with on a physical level. I find that for me electronic notes seem to get lost or forgotten easily, and I find it harder to see connections between unrelated items in separate electronic documents than I do when they’re on physical pages. I remember things better when I mark them down in my own handwriting, and just reading them back in that format often jogs additional ideas that weren’t quite there yet when I made the note. BUT. I don’t draft on paper. Trying to do so drives me batty. I need to type so my hands have a chance of keeping up with my brain, so I can rework sentences as I’m writing them (just part of my personal process), and so I can easily search for previous scenes and information (GOD BLESS SCRIVENER xo). I plan my scenes on paper, then write them on my laptop. (Note: when I keep a journal, it’s on paper. And quickly turns into a bit of a scrapbook stuffed with movie tickets, candy bar wrappers, and movie tickets. It’s hard to do that in an app. I should get back to it some day…)21886923_10155476411810325_826380582_o
  • Limiting social media time and access. Social media is a problem for me. I can lose hours scrolling and clicking on Buzzfeed lists only to discover later that I gained nothing from that time except maybe a headache from staring at the screen, but the temptation to “just take a quick look” can be unbearable. I mean, come on. There are Ten Things I Don’t Know About David Hasselhoff’s Bellybutton? Click. It goes beyond simple willpower and self-control, and I’m aware that it’s not healthy. I try not to carry my phone around with me. I removed the Facebook app from my phone to make access at least a little less convenient. And I try not to let myself post until my work is done for the day, as the temptation to check for notifications is far worse after I do. Social media can be great if you like what you get out of it. For me, the costs aren’t worth the rewards on most sites, so I’m limiting my time. Side note: I am reading SO MUCH MORE now that scrolling’s not an option! Still in kind of a fiction slump, but good HEAVENS am I finding some interesting non-fiction…and none of it about the Hoff’s navel.
  • Daily exercise, ideally outdoors. I realized the importance of this several years ago. It has a huge impact on my mood and mental health as well as my physical condition. Taking forty minutes or an hour out of the day seems counter-productive in terms of getting work done, but I’m not bringing my best self to the office if I don’t get physical activity and fresh air into my day. It’s also a great time to let my mind wander–and if I don’t get that, I feel like a shaken-up soda bottle that’ll explode at any second. I need the release valve.

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    I have extra motivation to get out. This is the face that follows me EVERYWHERE until he gets his walk.

  • Having a routine. This isn’t important for everyone, but as it turns out, it is for me. A routine means I’m working consistently, not waiting on inspiration or a time when I feel like working (which honestly never happens). It also means I’m not using my mental energy and willpower on deciding what to do next. I know what to expect and what to prepare for. I know where my brain needs to be focused, so even when it’s difficult I’m a little less inclined to give up and do something easier. It also helps me remember to do routine tasks that I might otherwise forget, like feeding the dog (right after he goes out in the morning) or watering my plants (Tuesdays, with apologies to those who died in my pre-routine days). Summer vacation was a great reminder for me of two things: how great my kids are, and how desperately I need the routine that school provides for all of us. That said, I’ve learned that scheduling every hour of every day also doesn’t work for me. It’s too much pressure, and I instinctively fight against it. It works for a lot of people, though, so don’t write it off if you haven’t tried it.
  • Working in my office. Interruptions are my kryptonite. I can’t wrangle my brain into a focused state if I anticipate visitors, deliveries, or people talking to me when I’m trying to put ideas on paper. Like, it’s insane how my mind clutches its pearls and reaches for the smelling salts at the idea of distractions…. Or maybe it’s not. Maybe it’s because it takes me so long to get into that focused state that my brain knows it’s wasting its energy if it fights that good fight only to have to start over because MOM WHAT ARE WE HAVING FOR SUPPER*. Not so stupid after all, maybe, even if it doesn’t help me much when I have 30 minutes to work and can’t get anything done. In either case, once I do get focused, I become quite irritable if I’m interrupted for any reason. So the best plan for me is to stick a Do Not Disturb sign on the office door and close that door, physically marking a separate time and space for focus.**
  • Writing down distractions as they pop up. Whether they go into my bullet journal or onto a post-it note, I write down every idea that threatens to derail me. Need to call the school about that thing? Write it down, do it later. Missed a birthday? Whoopsie-doodle, better make a note to get in touch with them later. Forgot to take the chicken out of the freezer? It’ll still be there when this work sprint is over. Writing it all down means it’s not taking up memory/mental processing space, and putting it somewhere visible takes away the worry that I’ll forget it. And if it’s a fun idea, I can use it as a reward and take care of it on my next break. WOOHOO LAUNDRY YASSSSS!
  • Sorting out my values. This is a huge, ongoing thing for me, but it’s making a difference in how I do everything. It’s easy to accept other people’s definitions of success and ideas of what a good life looks like, but if they don’t align with your personal values, they’re going to lead you to making choices that either don’t motivate you or make you miserable. Making a six-figure income is a pretty standard definition of success, and you can find loads of books, podcasts, and advice on how to do that as an author… but for me it would require changes in my life that I’m not ready to make. You can also find a lot of books/podcasts/posts on how to crank out more stories, faster. A fine goal, but what excites me is immersing myself in my stories and characters in ways I can’t manage if I’m rushing them out the door. I can’t have both at the moment, so for now I choose to go deep instead of wide. Hitting the NYT bestseller list is an amazing achievement, but it requires investment of money and promotion time that I’m choosing to spend on other things. My values and needs aren’t better or worse than anyone’s who chooses those other goals. As long as we’re both excited by what we’re doing and not hurting anyone in the process, we’re both successful. But if I chased their goals or they felt forced into my idea of a balanced life, we’d be miserable. Taking time to make a conscious choice about this has alleviated a lot of stress for me. It’s something I’ll have to keep coming back to (I’ll likely want to focus more on commercial success after the kids are out of the house, or maybe travel and new experiences will become a new value), but knowing what I want right now makes it easier to say no to things that don’t align with those values. And I hope that in the long run it will help me stop comparing my achievements to other people’s. (The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson is a great place to start looking at this if you want a fun, irreverent read that contains a ton of f-bombs and a lot of interesting ideas about pain, choices, and values. The audiobook version is excellent, too, though NSFW.)
  • Getting enough sleep. It’s not always good sleep, but I aim for 7.5 to 8 hours in bed a night. I limit caffeine intake after about 2:00 in the afternoon and try to stay off my computer/phone/tablet for an hour before bed***. I’ve had some bad experiences with non-restorative sleep and with loss of sleep time because of work or babies. I have no intention of going back to that kind of exhaustion if I can avoid it. My brain might screw up a lot on a good day, but it’s nothing compared to days when I’m sleep deprived. I’m having trouble with sleep quality these days, but at least I can try to control the quantity.

That’s about it, I guess. Some of it’s practical, some of it’s a bit more ephemeral, but it all works for me. And these are things I won’t be changing during this experiment (unless I have to to test something else out).

I should note that none of this turns me into a productivity machine. No matter how well I plan and prioritize my day, my brain will try to keep me away from writing, and making myself focus will be at best frustrating and at worst painful. I will likely never find a trick, a drug, an idea, or a coach that can turn me into an eight-hours-and-ten-thousand-words-a-day writer.

But at least I’m going into battle prepared, and I’m getting a lot more done than I used to.

If you’ve got thoughts on what helps you get stuff done, go ahead and leave them in the comments! We’ll take a deeper look at what’s happened since I cut down on social media in a future post, plus anything else that seems relevant to the experiment.

Next week: The results of week one of the Godawful Early Schedule. Dun-dun-DUNNNNNNN…


 

*Answer: It doesn’t matter, just eat it.

**I haven’t always had an office door I could close. Before we moved to this house two years ago, I didn’t. I tried working at a desk in the living room, but you can imagine how that went. I ended up constructing a makeshift office space in the basement out of stacks of plastic storage bins, boxes, and pet carriers, with a sheet strung up for the door and my upstairs desk hauled down to serve me there. It wasn’t paradise, but for the first time I had my own space. It made a real difference.

***I’m running into a problem with this now that I’ve figured out how to borrow library ebooks. I’m like a kid in a candy store, reading a lot… but I can’t transfer most titles from the app to my Kindle Paperwhite, so I’m actually reading from a tablet before bed some nights. CURSE YOU, CANDY STORE.

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COVER REVEAL- Resurrection (Immortal Soulless Book One) by Tanith Frost

Coming June 27, 2017

COVER1WITHTEXT

Her gifts will be her salvation… or her downfall.

No one gave Aviva a choice about becoming a monster. Since the night of her murder she’s been forced to accept a new reality—burned by sunlight, dependent on the blood of the living, searching for her place in a dark world she didn’t believe existed until she awoke as a vampire.

She’s still struggling to accept her fate and master her dark powers when the news arrives: rogue vampires are torturing and killing human residents of the city, threatening the secrecy and uneasy peace of the supernatural world.

As the hunt begins, Aviva’s deliciously distracting trainer, Daniel, helps her seek out her unique strengths. The gifts she discovers are shameful in the eyes of vampire society—and they may be the only thing standing between a pack of ruthless paranormal killers and the unsuspecting humans they prey on.

(New Adult Urban Fantasy)

Available June 27, 2017 via Amazon (free to read with Kindle Unlimited)

To receive four free sample chapters of Resurrection plus release news, giveaways, advance review copy offers, and more, join Tanith Frost’s mailing list!

immortal soulless resurrection teaser want him


Bound (Bound Trilogy Book One) FREE for a limited time!

I know, I know. Too much promotion here these days, right?

I promise I’ll be back with something else when I have anything interesting to share with you. Right now I’m buckling down, trying to avoid wasting time on social media, and working on getting the first three books I’ll be releasing under my pen name ready for publication. There’s a lot going on here… it’s just behind the scenes.

I do have one bit of excitement to share, though! For the first time ever, Bound is free on all of its regular ebook retailers! Whether you read on Kobo, iBooks, Nook, Kindle, or those smaller ones whose names I can never remember, I’m giving the ebook away.

I wish I could say I had a big strategic reason for doing this, but honestly? It was the end of winter, I was in a funk, and not much lifts my spirits like giving something away. And between this and the paperback giveaway I just wrapped up with my newsletter type people*, I’m having a pretty good time.

Besides, we’re coming up on Bound’s third anniversary as a published book. Why not invite some new people in to explore this world and get to know my beloved characters?

So if you haven’t started the series yet, check out the links at books2read.com/bound. If you have read and enjoyed these books, why not offer a recommendation to a book-loving friend? This offer is only going to be on for a few weeks, and when it’s over, I don’t know whether or when it will happen again.

Enjoy!

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*Newsletter subscribers get the VIP treatment. Giveaways, bonuses, free stuff… want to join in? Visit my site to sign up, then watch your inbox (or spam folder) for the confirmation email. Add me to your contacts so you don’t miss anything, and enjoy!


Coming Soon from Sparrowcat Press…

I know some of you have been waiting. I’ll have the cover/description reveal here on June 1. In the meantime, check out TanithFrost.com for details, and sign up for her newsletter to get a generous four chapter sample of Resurrection! If you’re a fan of Urban Fantasy, vampires, steamy romance, and a whole lot of blood-spattered suspense, you’ll want to check this one out.

immortal soulless resurrection cover reveal teaser dark


Newsletter Exclusive Paperback Giveaway!

I know. You get a ton of email, right? It’s easy to miss stuff in the absolute flood of newsletters, ads, and “wait, when did I even sign up for that?”

But this Friday, you’ll want to watch for an email from me. My newsletter subscribers will find out how to enter to win a signed paperback copy of Bound, plus a gold feather ornament and a “create a little magic every day” bookmark. It’s going to be really easy to enter, chosen totally at random, open internationally, and completely exclusive to subscribers.

If you’re on the list and don’t receive the email, be sure to check your junk folder (or your promo folder if you’re with Gmail and have to put up with that little newsletter-hiding system).

Good luck!

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