Monday, June 18, 2018
Manage Your Writing by Breaking All the Rules with Beth Woodward
When I used to read articles about time management as a writer, I cringed.
“Write every day,” they said. “Make sure you get at least 1,000 words on paper, regardless of what’s going on around you—family vacation, illness, death, zombie apocalypse. Doesn’t matter. You will get your 1,000 words.”
And hey, maybe that works for some people. But that kind of hard-and-fast regimen never gelled for me—and it’s only gotten worse through the years as my obligations have grown. I have a husband; a large, extended family of in-laws; and three high-maintenance “fur-kids” (aka cats) who demand my attention at the most inconvenient times. (Seriously. “Writing with cats” could be a whole blog entry onto itself.) I have a full-time job, and I assist with the caretaking responsibilities for my aunt, who is developmentally disabled. (Mostly this involves making a lot of phone calls and bumbling through the labyrinthine bureaucracy of Medicaid-funded assistance programs.)
The truth is, sometimes I would love to pull a Thoreau, move to Walden Pond, and focus all my time and energy on writing. But here in the real world, very few of us can do that. So for me, balancing my writing with the rest of my life has involved ignoring a lot of those “productivity” pieces…and learning to break the rules.
“Get your words no matter what” becomes “Take care of yourself.”
No one can tell your story except you. That’s it. So the most important factor in writing isn’t the time or the type of computer you have or how many cutesy #amwriting photos you’ve posted on Instagram. (I’m up to 37 today!) The most important factor is you. So if you get sick or burn out, that story will remain untold.
Sometimes we—and I think women are particularly prone to this, because of the way we’ve been socialized—tend to prioritize everything over ourselves. But if you want to have a long, fruitful writing career, I truly believe you have to give yourself the space to take some “me” time.
“Write every day,” becomes “Find your rhythm.”
If you are someone who can write every day, that is awesome. I’m already jealous. I am not one of those people. Even if I had the time in the day, my brain would just fizzle out. I need weekends and vacations.
That said, I do think it’s helpful to establish a routine. Maybe that means writing on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays between 7 and 9pm. Maybe that means you write like crazy between February and October, but not at all during the holiday months. For me, I write in the late evenings, and I have to switch back and forth between being “promo-focused” and “book-focused.” When I’m in hard-core promo mode (like when I have a new book coming out), I don’t tend to write new fiction as much.
“Push through writer’s block” becomes “Take a break.”
The reality is, we all run into days when we’re feeling uninspired, and some days the story just won’t cooperate. I’ve seen lots of pieces on how to push through the writer’s block, but sometimes, in the words of Elsa, you just have to let it go.
Now, when I say that, I don’t mean abandon your story altogether. But if it’s a small case of “I can’t figure out what snappy dialogue this character is going to say next,” you may want to take a walk or go get a snack—just step away from your desk for a few minutes. If it’s a larger, more fundamental problem, you may have to get away from that project for a while and spend some time working on something else.
In my opinion, 75% of writing is thinking, figuring out how to get the characters from point A to B, how to keep the story flowing, and how to solve dilemmas. Only 25% actually involves getting it on paper. But what’s important is that once you untangle the brain snarl, you come back to the page and finish the rest.
“Don’t share your work with anyone” becomes “Find people you trust to talk to.”
Writing is a very solitary profession. When I get stuck at a certain point in the story, my instinct has been to mull it over myself—over and over and over again—until I get through it. Which is fine. But if you have someone who you trust, who you can blast ideas off of until you get through them, it can help you get through those blocks a lot faster.
For me, that person is my husband. When I get stuck, I’ll go grab my husband and say something like, “So let’s say immortal supernaturals are dying all over the place. What would cause that,” and he’ll instantly reply with something like, “It’s a self-replicating nanovirus, obviously.”
All kidding aside, the process is rarely that smooth, and involves a lot of back-and-forth. But talking it out, for me, definitely helps work through the story. I’d suggest you find someone with a lot of patience, someone who is familiar with the genre in which you’re writing, someone who won’t try to take over your story, and someone who won’t get upset if you don’t use their ideas.
“Make writing your first priority” becomes “Prioritize it as highly as you can.”
If you want to write professionally, you have to treat writing like a job—which means that it does become a priority in your life (versus a hobby, which is more of a “do it when you can/want” thing). Even so, I won’t lie—there are things more important to me than writing. My husband and family will always be first. And honestly, the day job has to come before my writing often times, too, because that’s what’s paying my bills at the moment.
I try to balance it as I can. For me, that means taking time off of the day job sometimes to write, and being very clear to my husband that I can’t go to dinner/watch a movie/hang out on certain nights because I’m working. It also means not tearing myself apart with jealousy when I hear about another writer who somehow manages to churn out 5,000 words every day.
Remember that this is not a zero-sum game. The goal—at least for me—is not to have a prolific career, but to have a long and fruitful one. And if I want to do that, I know I have to stop pushing myself to meet other people’s expectations of what it means to be productive.
Embracing the Demon
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: California Coldblood Books
Date of Publication: June 19, 2018
Number of pages: 360
Word Count: 80,000
Cover Artist: Leonard Philbrick
Tagline: Dale Highland never wanted to be a demon…but now she may be the only one who can save them all…
Dale Highland never wanted to be a demon, never wanted to go back to the supernatural world, but now she has no choice.
A militant anti-supernatural group called the Zeta Coalition is trying to kill Dale, and a mysterious illness ravages angels and demons throughout the world. As the death toll rises, and the Zetas get closer and closer to Dale, she starts to realize the two things are connected.
To save them all, Dale will have to team up with John Goodwin, the man she once loved. The man who destroyed her.
But by the time Dale and John figure out the Zetas’ real intentions, it may be too late…
He wore a gray suit with a dark shirt and a blue tie that fit him so perfectly I knew it must have been custom made for him. His dark blond hair had been combed and gelled into submission. Normally, it stood up in random spikes around his head—not as a stylistic choice, but because he had the tendency to run his fingers through it nervously until it went in about 14 different directions.
Until that moment, I hadn’t been convinced he’d survived the fall off the roof of Amara’s estate. Every night in my dreams, I stared at his broken body, tears running down my face. I wasn’t sure why I cried: because I had killed him, or because he had destroyed me.
But here was John, very much alive, looking like the fantasy of some billionaire boss about to have hot monkey sex with his secretary on the desk. He didn’t look like the John I remembered, who’d spent most of our time together wearing blood-covered t-shirts. Which one was the real John, I wondered, the suave businessman or the urban warrior? And then I noticed the pin on his lapel: a flaming angel that matched the ones on the others’ pendants. John had declared his allegiance, and it wasn’t to me.
“My apologies for the mess,” he said. “Ephraim, Leah, please clean that up. Make sure you dispose of the body well. I don’t want him coming back to haunt us one of these days.” A man and a woman jumped out of their seats and scooped up the body, leaving just a puddle of blood behind. Guess they’d be getting that later.
John turned to the rest of the group. “Let’s not forget why we’re here. This illness is already devastating our community, and it’s getting worse. The Zeta Coalition created it with the intent of wiping out supernaturals—angels and demons. And if we can’t cooperate, they will succeed.”
“She’s the daughter of our worst enemy!” someone shouted.
“Amara is dead. And Dale is not Amara.” He paused. “Covington is right. We need more information if we’re going to survive this, and Dale is our best hope of gaining access to their records containment facility.”
“What about taking an army and storming the compound, like we talked about a few weeks ago?” someone asked.
To my surprise, it was Tina who answered. “The compound is too heavily fortified, and its underground architecture would make it difficult to strong-arm. We’ve run the scenario many times, accounting for the different variables. The most likely outcome is that we’d end up trapped down there while the Zetas pick us off.”
“There must be another way,” a woman said.
“Maybe, but this is the best way,” John replied. “We all know Dale can do things that no one else can. Her return may have been a coincidence, but we should use that to our advantage.”
“I haven’t agreed to anything yet,” I managed to get out through gritted teeth.
About the Author:
Beth Woodward has always had a love for the dark, the mysterious, and all things macabre. She blames her mother for this one: while other kids were watching cartoons, Beth and her mother were watching Unsolved Mysteries together every week. She was doomed from the beginning. At 12, she discovered the wonders of science fiction and fantasy when she read A Wrinkle in Time, which remains the most influential book of her life. Growing up, she was Meg Murray with a dash of Oscar the Grouch. She’s been writing fiction since she was six years old; as a cantankerous kid whose family moved often, the fictional characters she created became her friends. As an adult, she’s slightly more well adjusted, but she still withdraws into her head more often than is probably healthy.
When she’s not writing, Beth volunteers at her local animal shelter, attends as many sci-fi/fantasy conventions as she can, and travels as much as time and money will allow. She lives in the Washington, DC, area with her husband and their three cats.