Too many books? Puh-shaw!

The first stack of my BTR pile, aka Books To Read.

The first stack of my BTR pile, aka Books To Read.

“Book Blogging” seems to be a popular topic now, which means I’ll probably try it in a few years. I may be an early adopter as far as tech toys go, but when it comes to other trends, I am usually a day behind and often a dollar (or more) short. Case in point: I only recently started to tweet here. Still getting the hang of that one. Pinterest? Fairly new, but on there here. As for Instagram? So far, not enough days in the week left open. But I digress from the original thought – what is this book blogging anyway and should I do it?

Simply put, book blogging is where you read a book and then post a review. Sounds easy enough. Of course, as my old marketing professor would say, it’s always about dollars and cents. True, many book bloggers, once they reach a certain level of readership, will start to receive ARCs, or advanced reader’s copies from publishers. The idea is you get a free book before the general public can purchase one, and the publisher and author get free and early advertising which, in a perfect world, increases sales.

There is a dark side, however. Maybe not exactly dark. More like a dim side, I guess. Depends on your point of view. Affiliate sales are the little links and ads the reader might select after reading the review. Click on the link enough times and the blogger receives a few pennies. Click on the link and then actually buy a book? The blogger gets a small percentage of the sale. The more popular the book blog, the more likely you will see these affiliate sales links.

Is this bad? Not really. For some bloggers, this is necessary income. The rub comes in when a blogger pushes a mediocre book as “a must read” in hopes of gaining those affiliated sales. Should this happen? No. Do most book bloggers participate in such deception? No. But does it happen? Well, as one man once told me – if you can think of it, then someone on the Internet is doing it and making money by doing it.

As for me? I would love free books. Who wouldn’t? But until I get through my “just had to buy this book and I’ll get to it soon, really, I promise” pile, I’ll need to beg off this book blogging trend. As they used to say – ain’t got time for that. See how timely I am with the popular catch phrases? Told you.

Any way, if book blogging is your thing, more power to you. I’ll try to stop by and read a few of your reviews. Put a link to your site in the comment section and I’ll help spread the love.

Until then, in between writing recipes for The Milk Chocolate Murders, and outlining the follow-on book – The Wedding Cake Witness, I will stick to reducing my collection of BTRs – books to read. The photo at the top should tell you how long this may take. And that photo doesn’t include the books I have stashed at work to be read at lunch. Or the other books sitting in the bedroom. Or the unabridged volume of work by some guy named Poe.

As soon as I get through these books, I’ll consider acquiring more. Unless I find myself in a bookstore, in which case all bets are off.

Don’t wait up. This could take a while…

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Prepping for Nanowrimo 2014

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Tip 1 in a series designed to assist you sprinting to the finish line this November as you type with abandon during Nanowrimo 2014.

Set aside time for your writing.”

Who has enough time? To do anything? And do it well? And still have friends and family speak to you when it’s all over?

You do, that’s who.

Let’s start with the basics. What is enough time to write?

For me, a productive writing session takes at least an hour. This includes the time needed to:

  • Find a secluded chair in a coffee shop, bookstore or library. A power source nearby is a bonus.
  • Think up polite responses to questions such as “Hey, are you writing something? Are you a writer, then? Have you been published? What are you writing now? Do you know [insert name of famous best-selling author here]?” It happens. I am polite; sometimes I get creative. They get used to me and leave me alone. Eventually.

It helps if I buy a cup of coffee every once in a while, assuming I am in a coffee shop. Hey, they gotta stay in business, too.

  • Set up the laptop and try to connect to a wireless network. Easier some days than others.

No network nearby? That’s okay. Less distraction; more writing.

  • Make sure whatever I write is saved to an online storage service, such as Dropbox. All it takes is one massive computer crash. I speak from painful experience.

Again, no network access? I’ll use a flash drive.

I reserve 5:30 – 6:30 am every weekday for writing. Saturday will often be a little more lenient, giving me a few hours to write. Sunday? Depends; it’s a long story.

With advanced planning, I can usually get a solid 45 minutes of actual writing during my hour.

Does this schedule work? It did for me; it may or may not for you. Working in this fashion, I finished Nanowrimo just under the November 30th deadline with a 52k word first draft. Here it is, six months later and my draft has changed numerous times, finally ending up as a 75k word completed novel.

“But I have responsibilities. I don’t have any spare time, not even an hour a day.”

Yes, many of us have children, spouses, and pets. Then there’s always the cooking/cleaning to do, and you can’t totally dismiss the job we use to earn money needed to pay rent. I hear you. I get you. I am with you.

So keeping in mind these other responsibilities, I found the best results come from having a regularly scheduled time for my writing. My family knows this time is reserved; and since it is so early in the morning, they are sleeping anyway. They don’t even miss me.

Support from family and friends is essential. Feed the pets. Be nice to your spouse. Help the kids with their homework. It’ll pay off when you need the extra time later checking for continuity errors, too many adverbs, the nefarious “that” and other grammar flotsam and jetsam.

I know one writer, a man with a six-book contract, who shuts himself in his basement for three months at a time to write. If you want a six-book deal, I guess this schedule might be worth it. But his method is not my choice. It must work for him. Not sure if he gets any Father’s Day cards, though.

Have a plan and hit the hour typing! This is your hour for all activities related to your project. This would include writing, research, plotting, outlining, reading, etc. We’re only talking an hour here so use it as efficiently as you can. The more actual typing, the better.

Maybe there are other times of the day where you could find five minutes here, ten minutes there to do a bit of research. You might be able to read a book from your chosen genre while eating lunch. While everyone else is watching television, you could perhaps scribble down thoughts of characters, story arcs, and plot points.

Speaking of reading, there is a great little book about finding available time when you have a super-busy schedule. It’s called Time to Write, by Kelly L. Stone. A quick read, this book gives plenty of examples of successful writers who overcame scheduling obstacles. If you can afford one of those giant, fancy coffee drinks at your local coffee shop, then you have enough money for the book. And the book will last longer.

Finally, avoid time-suckers. Well, if you think about it, you could read Facebook, Twitter, and yes, even blog posts at other times during the day. You can grab a bite to eat five minutes before your hour. You might even reward yourself with a dinner out, after your hour.

And there is no harm in holding a family meeting the day before you start. Explain your desire to write, with the caveat you won’t be abandoning anyone. All you want is one hour a day. They can have the other 23. Then promise the family you will take them on holiday once you are a rich and famous author. (Well, it could happen, you know.)

Bottom Line: Professional writers started out just like you. If they could find time to write, you can, too! It’s all about doing the “other stuff” before, or after your hour.

Now stop reading and go write!

Next up: What’s genre got to do with it?

Since no one else wants Monday…

I’ll take it. Yep. You can have your hump day, take all the Friday’s you can handle. Heck, even grab a-hold of the weekends, just leave me Monday.

Why would I be so crazy would I want to embrace the first work day of the week? Because my academic week ends on a Sunday of all days, at 11:59 PM Central standard time. I don’t even live in the Central time zone, for Pete’s sake. Additionally, taking classes one at a time means my brain is in the land of academia pretty much all year long, with no end in sight (the end is next year, sometime in August 2013, but it seems to be nowhere close.) And what this all means is that I use Friday night and all day Saturday and Sunday (less church time) to dot the I’s and cross the T’s on scads of research papers and discussion board topics. Whoo hoo. Doesn’t that sound like more fun than a barrel of monkeys?

Monday – thou art my break from the world of Blackboard.

Background: I have been writing two weekly serials, one a detective story and one a vampire-esque saga. Lots ‘o fun, but I just haven’t had the proper time to make continuing those efforts satisfying. I could crank out a pile of words, but if I am not enamored with the plot, the dialogue, the characterizations, etc, why should I expect you to be? Frankly, I want to spare you from reading crap. And there is plenty of that out there as it is. I’ll eventually get back to the serials, but for now – I had to make a change.

I have started an outline for a novel, based on my private detective character, Witt Kepler. This storyline may just work so I want to take my time with it. I also have numerous books given to me as presents. I am almost through the first one. Maybe you have heard of it? It’s about some girl with a dragon tattoo. I received that book last Christmas. Yes, I am behind in my reading.

I also have, stacked off to the side of my temporary workstation, a few other gems. “The Devil in the White City” by Erik Larson; “Started Early, Took My Dog” by Kate Atkinson; “The Art of Racing in the Rain” by Garth Stein; and a plethora of John Le Carre books as well as the beginnings of a decent Rex Stout collection.

Let it be known that on Monday’s – I shall read not books on employment law or strategic planning in a volatile economy, but rather books…get ready…for fun and enjoyment.

That’s my Monday mantra.

I may not get back to serious writing until next year, and that’s okay. I’ll have the degree, finally, and I’ll have read some great work by some talented writers. And speaking of talented writers, I will be reading your posts more often, as well. I will even endeavor to comment every so often, though I do not want to become a pest (or a stalker.)

So stay tuned for updates on my reading and my journey down the path of becoming a better writer. What better way to start (again) than to read?

What are you reading?

Hiatus for Hamlet

Shepherd gate clock at the Royal Observatory, ...

Time waits for no one - get writing!

You ever get the feeling that you can’t get anything done because you are too busy doing stuff?

That’s me lately.

The first draft of the novel I wrote last November is still mocking me. I even have a sequel rolling around in my head, plus a third, separate set of characters just waiting for me to start clacking away on the old Royal. Yet, like many writers, I never seem to have enough time to write.

Then, when I was wasting time on Facebook (like most of us) I had a short but enlightening conversation with a friend who mentioned a book called Hamlet’s Blackberry.  It’s about our life with electronic devices with screens and how those devices end up taking all of our time and end up ruling our relationships, or connections with humanity. I have not read it yet, but it is on my Nook-list.

Maybe we as a society have suffered because of a round-the-clock connectivity?

The really sad part? I have a book on my shelf, I can see it right now, called Time to Write. This book gives many great examples of authors who had just as much “life” going on as me, yet they found time to write. I’ve read this book and have recommended it to others. Do I follow the book’s advice? Apparently not.

So what does it all mean?

Please stop by Almost Out of Ink whenever you feel so inclined. There are about 40 short stories, two or three novellas and even a poem in there somewhere. As for me, I need to spend some time with the novel. I’ll still peruse my blogroll, for I always enjoy reading what my peers are writing. A very talented bunch they are! And if you comment on any of my posts, I’ll see it on my phone and I always reply to say thanks for reading.

But for now, it’s time to go on hiatus!  See you soon!!