Friday, September 30, 2011

Friday Five: Five Ways to Find More Time

Lots of people ask me where I find the time to do everything I do. Seriously, at any given moment in my life, I generally juggle half a dozen involved tasks at once. How do I manage? Here are five of my secrets:

1. Take on more. Sounds crazy, doesn't it? But for me, the more projects I have to work on, the more time I can devote to them. Let's say I'm writing a new story, judging a contest, editing a sold manuscript, and revamping my website (all tasks I've done on a regular basis and often, at the same time.) If I'm stuck on my WIP, I'll pick up a contest entry. Then I'll edit a few chapters. After that, it's a page of my website. The trick for me is that I never have "nothing" to do and thus, I can never be bored or wasting time that could be focused on a particular project.

2. Don't wait to start. If you're going to take on more, you have to be realistic about your time allotment. Just because your editor gave you until the end of the month doesn't mean you wait until the 23rd to dig into those revisions. Start the day you get them or, at the very latest, the first weekend you get them. The more time you have to devote to the work, the more quality you can provide.

3. There's no such thing as downtime. You can still spend time with the family, still watch your favorite television show, still go out with friends. And your tasks can come along with you. Print out pages to read or edit in the car, on the couch, during your lunch hour, in the bathtub. Playing around on the Internet? Play with info that will benefit you! Word games are not only fun, they enhance your vocabulary and keep your brain stimulated. Puzzles train you to think outside the box. Just don't lose too much time in Gameland.

4. Don't be afraid to ask for help. No one is SuperPerson. Everyone needs help once in a while. And it's better to ask before you become overwhelmed. What's the worst that could happen? You ask for help, you get it, and you finish earlier than you anticipated? Yeah, I can see where that might be painful for ya. (Insert sarcasm here.)

5. Do as much prep as you can before you commit. Just like agents and editors expect a completed manuscript before you query, you can have a workshop ready to go before you shop it to chapters, writing groups, or libraries. Use calendars, timers, day planners, white boards, etc. to keep you on target. The more you have on your plate, the more you need to keep track of. Do so, and don't be ashamed.

For tips on writing and fun articles, visit Gina's Articles For Writers page:

Thursday, September 29, 2011

It's Free Coffee Day!

Back in 1964, 7-11 introduced a new concept: coffee to go. And they chose little old Long Island as the guinea pig for this radical idea. Nearly fifty years later, most of us can't conceive of not stopping someplace to pick up that pick-me-up for a long drive, our morning jolt, or just to reboot. "Oh, thank heaven for 7-11!" (And thanks to Long Island residents too for embracing the idea with so much passion. I'd like to take credit for that, but I was only two at the time.)

In honor of that momentous occasion, 7-11 is giving away free coffee today. Stop into your local 7-11 between 7 and 11 am (duh!) today, and get a free medium coffee. Writers everywhere fall to their knees in gratitude.

For tips on writing and fun articles, visit Gina's Articles For Writers page:

Friday, September 23, 2011

Friday Five: Five Questions I'm Often Asked Regarding Writing

I do a lot of workshops for new and ambitious writers. Whatever the subject of the workshop, there's always a Q&A, and the same questions seem to pop up over and over again. Here are a few, along with the answers I provide:

1. How long does it take you to write a book?
Honestly? It depends on the book and whether or not I'm on deadline. I've churned out some books in ninety days, others can take over a year. I tend to work well under pressure, but I also like the freedom of time to really explore my characters and the plot by meandering through, chapter by chapter.

2. Where do you get your ideas?
Everywhere. Overheard conversations, the couple in the car next to me when I'm stuck in traffic, dreams, bad books or movies I want to rewrite, a really good "how we met" story. Everything I hear or see is an inspiration.

3. Should I pay for an editor to review my work?
If you're planning to self-publish, YES. If you're publishing through the traditional route, NO: an editor will be assigned to you by your publishing house.

4. How much money do you make?
How much do you make?

5. Why romance?
Why not? Actually, romance gives me the greatest variety of avenues to explore. I can write contemporary, historical, or futuristic. Or I can combine all three! I can incorporate a murder, a kidnapping, or suicide. My main characters can be living, dead, or undead. Any age, any gender. They can have magical qualities, the ability to transform into something else, or just be the normal girl/boy-next-door. I can set my story on Earth, another planet, or another realm. So long as at the heart of my story, two people fall in love and hint at the promise of a future relationship, I've got a romance. The possibilities are as endless and eternal as True Love!

For tips on writing and fun articles, visit Gina's Articles For Writers page:

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Happy Fall!

In my hemisphere, autumn officially It's my favorite season: the colors, the cooler temps, the farewell to barbecues in favor of soups and roasts. And pumpkin! Oh, the pumpkin: breads, pies, cookies, coffee!

For tips on writing and fun articles, visit Gina's Articles For Writers page:

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Mid-Week Rude Awakening: Quitters Never Win

I can't believe I actually have to address this topic. But here goes. In the writing world, as in The Real World, things don't always go your way. Now, when the road gets rocky and the results aren't what you anticipated, you can refocus your efforts, try a little harder, and keep going--climb over the rocks, adjust your pace to clear the hurdles, your eyes firmly fixed on the golden horizon. Or you can turn around and walk away; give up; quit.

Before you choose option number two, let me ask you: Why?

What exactly did you expect when you took your first steps on this journey? Were your plans realistic? Or did you dive in head-first, thinking the world was going to kowtow to you simply because you wanted this dream so much?

Writing isn't like selling Tupperware or leading the local PTA. You can bust your butt for ten years and still wind up writing another decade before your first sale or a royalty check worth more than a dollar. Your sparkling personality is not enough to get you a multi-book publishing contract.

Writing isn't like high school. The prettiest girl isn't automatically voted Queen. Sucking up to the most popular kid doesn't vault you into the elite circle.

Writing isn't like your marriage where a few days of the silent treatment gains you your heart's desire. You're not an editor or agent's "one and only."

Writing is hard. It's supposed to be hard. Writing requires dedication, professionalism, talent, passion, knowledge, excellent communication skills, drive, and a lot of luck. Published writers are the ones who didn't quit. They absorbed the rejections, traveled the rocky road, and kept their gaze fixed on the horizon. There isn't anything you're facing that a successful published author hasn't overcome to reach the gates of bestsellerdom.

Still want to quit? Go ahead. You obviously never had the fire inside you anyway.

For tips on writing and fun articles, visit Gina's Articles For Writers page:

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Permission to Fly!

Yesterday, I was watching reruns of Project Runway from a few years back. If you're unfamiliar with the show, PR is a reality show for fashion designers. Each week, the designers create a look based on some kind of challenge (unusual materials, artwork inspired, to match an accessory, etc.)

Writers can learn a lot from Project Runway. The products created by these designers can often be ripped to shreds by the judges, and unlike writers who get their rejections privately in emails or letters, the designers stand there and take it while a worldwide audience looks on. The show is a study of grace under pressure, a recommendation to think outside the box, and filled with fun moments (and fashion!)

Now, in the particular season I was watching yesterday, designers' models also faced the chopping block. After the winning and losing designers were chosen, post-runway, the model who worked with the losing designer was offered to the winner. If the winner chose to stay with his/her own model, the losing designer's model was sent home. Fast forward to that moment. The winning designer, Daniel Vosovic, faced his model and the losing designer's model, a lady named Danielle. Danielle was in tears because she knew she was on her way out.

And then came the words of wisdom from Daniel to the crying Danielle (forgive me for paraphrasing): I'm not sending you home; I'm giving you permission to fly off for something better.

How profound is that? I know it made Danielle smile. But more importantly, it struck me as something of a mantra for writers. When we receive rejections, when the story just won't gel, when our characters refuse to follow the script...give yourself permission to fly off for something better.

You never know what's beyond the horizon.

For tips on writing and fun articles, visit Gina's Articles For Writers page:

Friday, September 16, 2011

Friday Five: Five of my Favorite (Semi-) Guilt Free Snacks

I'm closely creeping toward a milestone birthday, but since my thryoid issues fifteen years ago, it's a lot harder for me to avoid packing on the pounds. And the thing is...I love my snacks. Meals, I can skip. Snacks? Not so much. So I indulge in my snacks but I try to be careful. Here are a few things that give me the feeling I'm cheating without resorting to carrot and celery sticks.

1. Quaker Quakes. Oh, I love these little rice cakes the dh calls "flavored styrofoam discs." Cheddar cheese, vanilla creme brulee, sour cream and onion, even chocolate! Mmmm...

2. Archer Farms Yogurt. The flavors, the flavors! Apple raisin bread, Boston cream pie, apple cobbler. And most of them are under 100 calories. These beauties from Target are the perfect start to my morning. Delish!

3. Turkey Hill Light Recipe Ice Creams. Yeah, ice cream is my weakness. So when I really want to treat myself, I scoop up a little of these decadent yummies. Creamy, flavorful, and without that ice milk consistency most light ice creams have. And lots of terrific flavors to choose from!

4. Fiber One brownies. Yeah, I know. I doubted it too. But they're fudgy enough to satisfy your chocolate craving and bigger than an M&M in portion size. Yay!

5. Special K Cracker Crisps. Potato chips for dieters! And they're really tasty. So much so that I have to hide them from the locusts I live with.

There you have it. These are good days to be a dieter. Gone are the cottage cheese/cantaloupe/Jello options of the past. Unless, of course you like that stuff. But if you're looking for treats that feel like you're cheating, you can't go wrong with the new kids on the low-cal block!

For tips on writing and fun articles, visit Gina's Articles For Writers page:

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

25 Years (And They Said It Wouldn't Last...)!

The hubster and I are married 25 years today. Originally, I thought of showcasing our wedding song as Music to Write By, but honestly? He and I are not the same couple who chose "Suddenly" by Billy Ocean because we danced to it on the beach on our first date. Too many songs have come and gone over the years for me to choose just one to represent all that we've seen, done, experienced, or survived.

What hasn't changed is that he's always been my best friend, the one person who can make me the angriest, hurt me the most, and then turn around and make me laugh the hardest or feel like the most beautiful woman in the world. We've faced our share of challenges, had some great fights (like the time he claims I "tried to run him over" with the car...I say he should've removed his arm from the passenger window when I put the car in reverse), and fantasized once or twice about throwing in the towel. But we never did. Know why?

Well, I can't speak for him but I honestly can't picture my life without him in it. In any given day he gives me a thousand reasons to smile, to feel secure, to feel LOVED. Whether he's complaining about my lack of sufficient chin, flirting with me in the kitchen, or driving me crazy because he can't find his car keys and is about to miss his train, he's still mine. And I'm his.

Isn't that what romance is all about?

For tips on writing and fun articles, visit Gina's Articles For Writers page:

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Friday Five: Five Unusual Places to Find Writing Inspiration

Every once in a while, we all become a little drained creatively, whether it's due to stress, health, weather, or personal issues. Why not try a unique locale to rejuvenate the spark? Give these places a shot:

1. A church. No, not for mass (though, if that works for you, go for it!). Churches, particularly those you don't normally frequent, are full of unique opportunities to absorb creativity. The architecture, the art, and that blissful silence all combine to rejuvenate the spirit and feed the writer's soul. Study the expressions on the faces of the images whether painted, sculpted, or in stained glass. Breathe in the odors of candles, flowers, and incense. Better yet, crash a wedding ceremony. Nothing says romance like a wedding. Note the beaming bride and her equally ecstatic groom. Check out the guests' fashions, the gorgeous floral arrangements, the hairstyles. Bathe in the happiness surrounding everyone. Lots of inspiration to soak up.

2. A cemetery. There's a great one near my house, on the bluffs of the Long Island Sound. It's out of the way, very private, very old, with some terrific views of water and shoreline. Read the headstones for interesting names, the history of families, and to let your imagination run wild.

3. The food court at the mall. Find a table in the thick of the crowd and watch. Check out how people interact, what they wear, what and how they eat. Study facial expressions and body language. Take notes and take all that insight back for your story!

4. The day job. Got one? Or a place you go routinely: Mommy & Me, book club, a play date? Even the weekly get-together with friends is rife with characterization. Social circles have lots of personalities. The leader, the follower, the nurturer, the martyr. Draw your characters from those archetypes you know.

5. Any historical landmark. Every town has some kind of historical attraction: an old house, an art museum, a historical society. Visit! Open up your senses to the possibilities. In some historical locales I've visited near me, I've heard stories of murders and haunted houses, viewed a collection of carriages (and sleds from the Russian steppes!), lost myself in works of art, and sipped birch beer on the veranda.

Now go forth, experience, then write!

For tips on writing and fun articles, visit Gina's Articles For Writers page:

Friday, September 2, 2011

Friday Five: Five Words to Challenge You

Sometimes the right word is all you need to propel you forward, whether it's a word that promises hope or a word that inspires your muse. Here are five words to set you on whatever journey you hope to take today!

1. Possibility. Is there another word that promises so much hope? Endless destinations await in this arrangement of letters. Go forth and find your goals!

2. Dream. I've written entire stories based on dreams I've had at night. And if you're not a writer, that doesn't mean you can't follow a dream or find inspiration of your own from the places where your mind wanders while you sleep. Go there. Take notes.

3. Dare. Take that leap, think outside the box, challenge yourself. Don't worry about a safety net. Fly!

4. Today. You know the saying, "Yesterday is gone, tomorrow hasn't come yet." All we have that is truly ours is today. Seize today and squeeze out every drop. If you're lucky, you'll get a chance to do it again.

5. Nourish. Feed your soul, feed your mind, feed your heart. Surround yourself with love, joy, and encouragement. Success will follow.

For tips on writing and fun articles, visit Gina's Articles For Writers page:

Thursday, September 1, 2011

And the Winners Are...

Sia Huff and Lisa Renna!
Ladies, send me your contact info as soon as possible. You've won copies of Nobody's Darling for posting comments on my blog (Sia for my hurricane post, Lisa for the birthday contest).

Congratulations and happy reading!

For tips on writing and fun articles, visit Gina's Articles For Writers page: