Monday, September 25, 2006

Getting Started is HARD

I hate this about myself. Why is it that on weekends (or when I take a day off like today) when I sit down to write it takes me 15 minutes to a half-hour to go myself going? I check my email, answer any quick ones that I can respond to, check the progress of my fantasy football teams (both of them), read any news stories that catch my eye on my Google homepage, and give in to any fleeting curious impulse like looking up houses in my old neighborhoods online (if I'm lucky one day maybe one of my old houses will be up for sale!!), pricing wireless keyboards and mice on eBay, checking the status on the library books that I'm on the waiting list for, or checking one (or both blogs for comments).

Then when I at last get down to work, I wonder what took so damn long to get started. What is so different on these "free" days. Today I'm writing because I'm procrastinating doing some prep work on my bathroom floor. Today, Matt and a friend of his came over and reinforced a weak spot (AKA "hole") in the floor, and cut and fit another sheet of plywood for the floor. Now I need to smooth out the cracks, holes and uneven parts of the floor before we can move onto the next part.

I did manage to get chapter summaries done for chapters 1 and 27 today (so far). I'd like to finish at least 4 more today... well maybe after the flooring compound fun...

Saturday, September 23, 2006

I have a confession.

I haven't been working much on the book proposal this week. But that doesn't mean that I haven't been busy writing. With a flash fiction writing class starting this week, preparing for an interview of the last person who lived in the Reese-Peters House, before it was the Decorative Arts Center, caught up on several email messages that I wanted to follow-up on from the Columbus Writers Conference from last month, and the usual other job, chauffeur, dad, and handyman duties necessary to keep functioning around here.

There was a great series of interviews this week in Newsweek about the lessons that successful women have learned, and Martina Navratilova response really struck a chord with me about how a writer must approach the craft:

"Athletes just do not quit until they get it right, whether it is shooting free throws or practicing serves or practicing one particular shot. It is getting up when you don't feel like getting up for your training session, it is going to bed early even though you want to go out with your friends, it is only drinking half a beer when you really want to drink two. Everything it takes to get to your goal—that's the mentality of an athlete or a successful human being. Period.

I think we know when we are letting ourselves off the hook. If you look in the mirror and you really look yourself in the eye, the image you see forces you to be honest with yourself. As a result, you'll make the right choices."

To read the full interview (and the rest of the interviews), click here:

I often see parallels between athletics and writing. Both depend on hours and hours of practice and preparation before you see a hint of success. They both depend on making sacrifices to position themselves for a chance at success. Anyone who wants to write... who really wants to write... makes the hard choices to turn off the TV and miss the latest episode of The Office, lets the dishes sit in the sink (unwashed), passes up lunch with a group of co-workers, and gets the writing done. Not only on that one day, but tomorrow, the day after tomorrow, and so on.

Tomorrow, back to work on the proposal...

Friday, September 15, 2006

Music Lesson Interlude

Task: The dreaded outline

Time stolen from: Writing during music lesson

Sorry I haven't been posting everyday, although I have been whittling away at the outline for the last several days and wanted to avoid boring everyone to death with the details of what I'm working on... since not a lot has changed. The outline is slowly getting organized into chapters, and I think that I'll be ready to start working on chapter summaries tomorrow.

Writing during waiting times always works good for me. Today I brought my laptop with me to my daughter's music lesson (she is taking piano and violin), and got a good 30 minutes of outline work done. I don't mind these types waits. Waiting for doctor's appointments, for oil changes and auto repairs, getting your driver's license renewed, etc. Always bring a notebook or reading to do when you think that you might be waiting for someone else.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

The NFL Returns!!

Task: Working on the Outline

Time Stolen From: TV watching (NFL Browns game)

There are a lot of ways to save time watching TV and one of the best ways I've found to save time watching one of my favorite things: the NFL, specifically Browns games on TV, is to use our TiVo (or any DVR) and record the game. I can cut the amount of time spent watching the game from about 3 1/2 to 4 hours to under 2 hours. Football games have TONS for commercials, not to mention lots of dead time and boring, busted plays. The only drawback is that you need to make sure you don't hear ANYTHING about the game, or have anyone reveal any interesting info about it. That is the only gap in the plan. Many times I allow the game to tape for about an hour or two, then I start watching the game until I catch up, then I go back to working on something else until more of the game is taped and watch the rest later.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Friday night surprise

Task: Beginning the outline of the book

Time stolen from: Friday night

Pleasant surprise. Discovered that at some time in the past I started not one outline of the book, but two of them. I clearly have already been struggling with how to organize this book for some time now, and I'm still not sure if this will work, but it's a start. I'll keep playing with the structure until I get something that I like.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Catching up at lunch time

Task(s): Writing proposal intro; drafting comparative titles

Time stolen from: Time gained from working from home instead of commuting

I work from home on Tuesdays and Wednesdays which saves about 70 to 75 minutes a day in commute time, even when I subtract the time it takes to drop off my daughter at school in the morning. At the end of my workday I set the blue timer and try to work on one or two 15-minute writing assignments and this seems to work well. This is the first post-Labor Day week of school and it seems like all sorts of activities start up now: Cub Scouts, Girl Scouts, Board Meetings, planning meetings, writing classes, etc. If I don't put in that time right after my work shift, many nights it won't get done.

I am amazed at how drafting this proposal clarifies my thinking about the book and helps me slide the sections into a logical order. I'm almost ready to rewrite my example chapters and start constructing the proposed table-of-contents.

Upcoming Tasks:

Monday, September 04, 2006

Intensive Labor on Labor Day

Task: Drafting the Overview section of the proposal

Time stolen from: Holiday weekend

I celebrated Labor Day by laboring intensively on removing 20+ year old tile from our master bathroom floor. Using a WonderBar and a hammer it is slowly splintering and coming up... very slowly. It is a tedious, sweaty, unpleasant job... one of those rare jobs that I'd put off doing to write. But it is difficult having one fully functional bathroom, so getting this done is a priority.

I just "flash wrote" my Overview section draft today. It is usually the last section that I write on any proposal, but I wanted to clarify my vision on what I am trying to do for this book. I liked what came out, a few unexpected things (a couple of new skills to develop for the 15-MW). The proposal is coming along nicely, although I did want to spend a lot more than 15 minutes each day of this weekend on it. Sometimes the bare minimum is all you can deliver.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Digging a deep hole

Task(s): Adding direct sales outlets to Promotions/Publicity section

Time stolen from: Stayed up late... damn late...

Didn't put much time in today. Bought over $1,110.00 worth of stuff for remodelling our master bathroom at Lowes today. It took us almost 3 hours to get this stuff done.

A new shower stall, shower stall door, base, medicine cabinet, toilet, fixtures, some tin sheets to cover up the firewood, and we got a Troy-Bilt rototiller, normally $299, for $100 since it had been returned and repaired.

Bottom line: None of this stuff excited me or Kristen. Then, I had to clean up the garage to store all of these big boxes, put the seats back in the van, and then I trimmed the yard with the trimmer mower, which is always a messy job, and considering that the areas were so overgrown, that made it messier. Pretty exciting eh?

Friday, September 01, 2006

Early freedom leads to more work

Task(s): Drafting a book proposal -- Finished draft of author profile; listed key contacts for publicity; listed potential target markets for the book

Time stolen from: Company let us leave 2 hours early today, so I used it.

I'm following the Nonfiction Book Proposal Cheat Sheet that Stefanie Von Borstel from the
Full Circle Literary Agency gave everyone during her presentation at the Columbus Writer's Conference last weekend. She was a great presenter, very animated and used excellent examples to illustrate her points. She answered the one question about the book selling business that I have never been able to find a definitive answer to: How can you find out how many copies a book has actually sold? How are these numbers tracked? Her answer was that there are no real reliable ways to do this. You can use BookScan, if you are a major retailer, but even then the reported numbers are wildly inaccurate, not counting sales to libraries, book clubs, and other loop holes.

It sounds to me as if agents too have a difficult time getting accurate sales totals on books that they don't directly represent, so I don't feel so bad about this now. Several months ago I had chased this lead everywhere, searches, statistics, Publishers Weekly, I even asked Roxanne at Barnes and Noble how BookScan worked, and she didn't really know. They used it primarily for ordering books. i now realize that chasing down this data was just another way to put off the work of writing the proposal, a trick that the Inner Critic played to throw me off track, and force me to look for something that would be nice to have and make me think that it was essential for the proposal. WRONG!