From Sarah, With Joy

Writer querying two novels and some other word babies. I tend to effervesce.

New post every Monday

Monday, July 6, 2015

Writing by Moonlight: A Writing Career in Your Free Time

Whether you're doing all in your power to build a full-time writing career, or you prefer the balance of writing plus some other kind of work, many of us writers are in the position of having to manage our writing careers in our off-work hours. I know it can feel like trying to hold a tray of wine glasses while washing a cat, but it can be not just manageable, but fun and non-stressful. Because we want our writing careers to be sustainable, right? Regardless of what else is happening in our lives.

Here are some Sarah's-brain suggestions for managing writing in your off-work times. This is what has worked for me, but I'd love to hear other suggestions and tips from your experience!

Lists are your friend. Make lists of everything. Make a list of the kinds of things you need to do every day. Mine is Writing, Submitting, and Social media. Make a list of magazines you want to submit to. That way you don't have to spend as much time on research when you're ready to submit.

Strategize day by day. Its good to wrap your head around what you've got to do before you've got to do it. With your writing, there are a couple ways to do this. Taking some pre-bed time to plan your next day is a great idea. Or, uh, maybe brainstorm during staff meetings? I mean, I've never done that. Whenever works best, take some time to list what writing projects you want to work on, and what submitting you want to do, before you're home and at your desk.

Time and reward yourself. One of the hardest things for me is coming home from work with energy and motivation. I mean, you've used up your creative umph for the day, right? This is where Butt In Chair comes in. Just get in the chair. That's step one. Remind yourself you just have to do one submission and write for just thirty minutes. That's manageable and not scary, right? Then when you're done you can flop in bed and watch another four episodes of Bones. Or you may get to the end of your half hour and feel like you can manage another thirty minutes. Then maybe thirty more. Maybe three hours and a thousand words go by before you know it. But if not, that's okay. Remember this: writing careers can be built in an hour a day.

Take time to refresh. Refreshing means different things to different people. It may mean a trip to an art museum or three episodes of Friends or a chocolate shake or three miles on the elliptical. Or a combination of these things. Sometimes a five minute walk around the block will do the trick. Sometimes you need a trip to Disneyland. Just keep track of yourself and what your brain needs. When you sit down to write and submit, you need your brain to be refreshed and happy with you.

These strategies have helped me. What works for you?

Sarah Allen

Submissions:

  • RattleA prize of $10,000 and publication in Rattle is given annually for a poem. Due July 15.
  • Glamour: Win $5000 and possible publication in Glamour magazine for personal essay of 2500-3000 words on "My Real Life Story." Due July 15.
  • Fairy Tale Review: Win $1000 and publication in The Fairy Tale Review for a group of poems or work of prose influenced by fairy tales. Due July 15. 

Best of the Week:
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Monday, June 29, 2015

Am I Showing or Telling?


Sometimes it can be really hard to tell.

We've all heard it so many times. "Show don't tell!" Yes. Yes, you think, I know. I get it. But maybe we get it in the same way my eighteen month old nephew "gets" eating with a spoon. Do we all secretly have mashed carrots on our faces and nobody's telling us? Wait where was I going with this? Oh yeah. Are we showing or telling, and how do we know?

Beware of "was." Lately I'm super, super grateful for amazing beta readers who help my manuscript become so much better by making it more active. "Was" is a great clue that you're telling rather than showing. If someone is "wassing" they're not doing anything. (Is wassing a word? Can we make it one?)

Avoid passive voice. I think sometimes bloggers throw things out there and even though as readers it sounds good and we try our best to follow it, we're not exactly sure what they're really talking about. Maybe that's just me. I've always found actual examples of passive voice to be super helpful, and if you just do a quick google search you'll find plenty. (Like this one, that also includes how to edit to active voice.) Essentially, just remember linking verbs. IS, AM, ARE, WAS, WERE, BE, BEING, BEEN. If you're using one of them in your sentence, especially was, were, or been, it's probably too passive. Change it to a simple "Subject Verbed" and stay safe.

Use active verbs. Good writing--good active voice--is more than just getting your characters to move on the page. It's about really seeing them. I'm getting an awesome lesson in this from my beta readers, and its been super helpful. Don't settle for okay verbs. Really see what your character is doing. Then your reader will too.

This advice is as much for me as anyone, but since it's what I'm thinking on lately I thought I'd write it out.

Write on!

Sarah Allen

Submissions:

This Weeks Best:


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Thursday, May 14, 2015

5 Non-Writing Things Writers Should Do Every Day

Writing can be a weird, lonely game, especially on the day to day. So here are ten things I'm trying to do every day to help my physical, emotional, and mental health as a writer.

1. Go outside. I know, I know, it's kind of scary out there, but there's also flowers and clouds and fresh air.

2. Talk to other writers. I always feel better and pumped up about writing after talking with other writers. And if you don't have IRL writer friends, there's us online too! Even just watching stuff like National Book Festival author talks perks me up a little bit.

3. Exercise. Pick your poison, whatever works for you. The point is to try and get moving, get your heart rate up, a little bit every day. I know I always feel better for it, and feel very bleh when I don't.

4. Read. Reading is what reminds us why we do what we do. Either it's brilliant and we think, man I want to be able to make readers feel this way one day. Or it's...not, and we think, hey, I can do better than that.

5. Do something new. Explore a new place in your city or try out a new restaurant. Just doing something new can help you feel less suck in your own head.

Hope these help! I'm going to try and do better at them myself.

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Monday, May 11, 2015

Go To The Gym Happy


It's got to be a big deal for me to want to talk about working out.

I've been trying to get serious about health lately. I've been a casual gym goer for many years (I'm still pretty casual) but I'm trying to add some consistency. One of my biggest problems with working out is that I've probably got something like asthma, and when I run for extended periods I get wheezy and have some pretty bad chest pains.

Anyway, on Saturday I got to hang out with my awesome mom. She was in town before flying back home, so we went out for lunch and talked and it was just so great. After dropping her off at the airport, I headed over to the gym. Because I'd spent the morning with her I walked into the gym feeling super happy. And let me tell you, that made all the difference.

I was feeling pumped and excited, so I felt up for trying new things that ended up working for me so much better than before. I finally felt that runners high I've heard so much about, without hitting up against the wheezing chest pain block first. It was amazing!

Ok, so why am I even telling you this? Who cares? Right. I don't care about other peoples work outs either, believe me. But here's my point.

Sit down to your writing or editing feeling happy.

Maybe blast some happy music first and dance around in your underwear. Or maybe make yourself some chocolate chip cookies. Whatever it takes. Even if you're writing something really dramatic and emotional, I believe sitting down happy is sitting down ready to DO this thing.

You may end up feeling drained and stretched, but if you go to work happy, you may find you have more of yourself to give.

Sarah

For more frequent updates, writing tips, and funnies, follow on FacebookTwitterGoogle+
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Monday, May 4, 2015

Blogging: Have We Heard This All Before?

I've been doing some thinking lately about the best functions and purposes of a blog in current social media trends. I think blogs are just as vital as ever, though perhaps for different reason's than they once were, and I'll get to that. But I can I just complain about it for a second? I could use your guys opinions.

First, blogs just aren't the "thing" anymore. At least that's the impression I'm getting in my web usage. It seems to me that so many users don't have the attention span for even a short blog post anymore, and the new social media sites are reflecting that. We have the quick and visual Instagram over Facebook, and six second Vine videos in addition to YouTube. People don't have the attention for a five paragraph blog essay. (But we do it anyway, right? :)

Mostly though, I'm starting to feel redundant again. I started this blog as a writing blog, and I LOVE talking about writing and hearing about writing and hearing from you guys about your writing projects, and I do want to continue providing as much useful information and tips for you guys about writing that I can. But the thing is, when you've got 600 posts about writing in your archive, you start feeling like you've got nothing new to say. And I know so many of you amazing bloggers have a big chunk even more then that. (Props. Serious props.)

And like I said, I think blogs are still very important. They may not be the go to "thing" anymore, but they still provide one of the best options for what is essentially your internet "home" address. They're the place you can point people. They're your gathering ground.

So now I want to ask you guys. What do you think is the solution? Is this just me being petulant? What other functions do you see for author blogs? 

Sarah Allen

For more frequent updates, writing tips, and funnies, follow on FacebookTwitterGoogle+
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