Writing Tips

Writing Tips: Finding Time

Time is such a valuable commodity. We all have the same amount. None of us gets more hours in the day, unless you have one of those cool necklaces Hermione had. If you do, can you send me one?

So assuming you’re an ordinary person without magical powers, you have the same 24 hours I do. Most days it doesn’t feel like enough. Especially when I’m on a deadline and anxious to get a few more things done before the school bus gets home. Or before the kids wake up. Or before my favorite show comes on.

We have to have priorities, right?

If you’re adding writing in as one more thing to do in your day, you’re probably wondering where you can find the time to write.

Here’s the secret… you don’t need much!

Yes, a book is not something you can finish in a day. It’s going to take you a while. But you don’t have to kill yourself to make it happen.

Personally, I like to write in thirty minute blocks, or longer. But this is my full time job, so I have all day. If you’re looking for some time, you can find it in small places.

Can you get up thirty minutes earlier? Trust me, I hate this suggestion. It’s one I balked at for years and years and years. I’m not a morning person. At all. But I decided over the summer that I was going to do it because I wanted to. Because I wanted more time to dedicate to my work. I’m not as tired as I thought I would be, and I’m getting more done.

What about at night? Can you stay up a little later? Again, same rules apply. You don’t need much time, and if you think this could work for you, turn off the TV (my big issue with it because I never did) and write.

What about, you’re going to laugh, in the bathroom? Let’s face it, we all have longer breaks in the bathroom at one time or another through the day. Can you write on your phone? Not a whole book, but for five minutes? You won’t get much done, and you’ll take a really long time to finish a book if you only do this, but it’ll add up. Just make sure you don’t lose track of time!

Waiting, for anything. Just like above, there are going to be times in your day when you’re just waiting. Doctor’s offices, grocery lines, carpool, commute, anything. Can you, again, pull out your phone for a few minutes and write a hundred words or so?

Can you write on your lunch break? Some people can’t, but if you have access to a computer during your lunch break and your company will allow you to do something non-work related, write for thirty minutes. You’ll be shocked how much you can get done in that amount of time.

Try it!

I think the best thing is to give yourself a week or two and try a few different options. Try getting up early or staying up later for a week. Try sitting in your car on your lunch break with a notebook or a tablet and writing. Try five minute bathroom breaks. See what works for you, then keep doing it.

For me, I have to have a schedule. When I first get up, I check my email so I know there isn’t anything sitting there waiting for me to answer it. After the kids are on the bus, I start writing. I write until lunch, and then get back to it afterward. But if I need to do something during the day, like a doctor’s appointment, I like to schedule it in the morning so I don’t mess up my flow. Figure out what works for you and start writing!

What tips do you have for finding time to write?

If you have a question, about writing or anything else, send me an email (mary (at) maryethompson (dot) com) with Q&A in the subject, or post it in the comments below, and I’ll answer your question right here on the blog!

Writing Tips: Find Your Niche

Welcome back for another tip for you as a writer!

I want to talk today about your niche. It’s common in business to look for a niche. A small section of a market you can serve. You want to be able to set yourself apart so people can find you.

Writing isn’t much different.

I write contemporary romance. That’s not very specific. There’s well over 100,000 contemporary romances available for sale.

I write small town contemporary romance. That’s not much better.

I write small town contemporary BBW romance. We’re getting a little better.

When I tell people what I write, I tell them I write small town contemporary romance based on ordinary people you’ll want to be friends with doing extraordinary things for love that will give you hope.

That’s kind of a mouthful, but it gets the point across.

When you write a book, you need to be able to tell people what you do quickly. You’d be surprised how many people lose interest when you say you are an author. They insist they don’t read, so you need to hook them before they assume your book isn’t for them.

Which goes back to your niche.

What books do you love? What books grab you? What books have you walked away from knowing they changed your life?

Harry Potter, all of them, were books that changed me. But I knew I didn’t want to craft an entire world.

Emily Giffin was one of my favorite authors when I was younger. There was something about the emotions and the way she drew me into a story that I loved.

Jill Shalvis is a favorite now. She’s basically my idol for romance novels. I taught myself what a good small town contemporary romance novel was by reading Jill Shalvis. I knew that was what I wanted to do.

The only problem was my niche was really a mansion. There’s nothing tiny about it, but I found my niche when I started writing about women I could relate to. Women who were overweight. Women who wanted love and friendship and cupcakes. Women I wanted to be friends with.

BBW romance is still a huge niche. But like I told a friend recently, if you go too small, you won’t have enough readers.

How do you find this though? How do you know when you’ve gone small enough? Or not small enough?

Unfortunately, I think you just have to keep trying.

Write a book. Write some more books. Never stop writing. Advertise, promote, and tell everyone you know. The right readers will find you. When you start to see that happening, you’ll know you’re in the right niche. That it’s the right size for you to be found.

Here’s my warning… Don’t go into a niche that you can’t get out of. You might love to write single dad romances, but you might not want to write them forever. Or food romances or military romances or any other different kind. It might be a niche that’s popular now, or that you like, but make sure it’s something you’ll still want to write if the popularity diminishes. Or in ten years. Maybe you won’t know, but at least think about it before you jump in.

If you want to write, at the end of the day, write. You will find your readers. They will find you. But make it easier on both of you by finding a niche that you love, and it’ll come across in your writing.

If you have a question, about writing or anything else, send me an email (mary (at) maryethompson (dot) com) with Q&A in the subject, or post it in the comments below, and I’ll answer your question right here on the blog!

Writing Tips: Make Friends

I haven’t gotten any new questions, so I’m talking about writing again today! I hope that’s okay with you!

A few weeks ago, I was at the Romance Writers of America national conference. Every summer, about 2000 romance novelists and industry professionals get together for workshops, networking, and awards. It’s a whirlwind of four days that always leaves me inspired and ready for more. I love it!

One of my absolute favorite parts about nationals is seeing friends I don’t live near. One of my good friends lives in California, so we see each other once a year. We roomed together this year and it was so nice to have someone to digest the workshops with, go to dinner with, hang out with.

Which brings me to my point.

Find friends!

Writing is a very solitary endeavor. You write your stories. You come up with all the ideas. You do the marketing and the planning and all the work. Sure, you might hire people eventually, but the day-to-day is all on you.

And it gets damn lonely!

I joined RWA (Romance Writers of America) so I could meet other romance authors. I joined my local chapter in Western New York to I could meet romance authors near me. My friend in California (ironically, also named Mary) became my friend at one of the conferences, which I went to to meet more authors.

Having friends who are writers means you’ll have someone to text when you hit your goal for the day. And someone to call when you get nominated for an award or publish a book. And someone to commiserate with when things don’t go as planned.

I meet my writer friends for lunch to work out plot issues. We read each other’s manuscripts to see what works and what doesn’t. We trade texts to stay up to date on progress.

Yes, other friends are great, but writers understand each other. It’s a world unlike many others. And having people who get it is so very important.

So get out there! Find some people. You can never have too many friends!

If you have a question, about writing or anything else, send me an email (mary (at) maryethompson (dot) com) with Q&A in the subject, or post it in the comments below, and I’ll answer your question right here on the blog!

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Writing Tips: Books To Read

We’re back again, looking at some things it takes to make it as an author. Unfortunately, there’s no magic bullet that will make you successful, but writing good books will help.

There are a ton of books out there about writing. My recommendations are simply that, my recommendations. This is not a slight on all the other books out there, or saying they aren’t as good. It’s simply my short list of books I’ve read that helped me along the way.

Ready?

Goal, Motivation, Conflict by Debra Dixon – I liked this book because it gave me a good view of how GMC works in a book. She uses examples from popular stories (like The Wizard of Oz) to detail exactly what she’s talking about. I’d read a lot about GMC before picking up this book, but it broke it down in a way that made sense for me. I loved it!

Write. Publish. Repeat. by Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant – a great example of a book that will convince you not to give up. These guys are not romance authors, but they are very successful authors who gave writing their all. Their motivation to make it work was an inspiration to me, as well as a kick in the pants to keep me striving forward.

The Positive / Negative Trait and Emotion Thesauruses by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi – three books that are valuable resources to authors. If you’re looking to understand your character, or trying to find an opposite for one, these books are great! Divided up by trait, the thesauruses help you navigate personalities well!

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert – if you’re looking for inspiration, read this book! It’s a great resource when you’re feeling out of sorts. Plus, creatives sometimes feel alone. You’ll never feel alone again after reading this book!

The Naked Truth About Self-Publishing by Jana DeLeon and Tina Folsom – an in depth look at self-publishing from some veterans. If you’re considering going at things your own way instead of finding a traditional publishing house, you’ll want the advice of people who’ve been there, done that. Read this book!

On Writing by Stephen King – I was reluctant to read this one because his work is way too gory for me, but I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the book. He’s a master, and no one can deny that. Don’t miss out!

As I said, I know there are more. I have many more on my bookshelf, but until I’ve read them, I struggle to recommend them. The most important thing is to get started. Read some, write some, find what works for you!

What writing books have you found most helpful?

If you have a question, about writing or anything else, send me an email (mary (at) maryethompson (dot) com) with Q&A in the subject, or post it in the comments below, and I’ll answer your question right here on the blog!

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Writing Tips: Plotting or Pantsing

One of the first things most writers want to know about each other is if you’re a plotter or a pantser. Why do we ask? We’re wondering if there’s a kindred spirit inside you. But what does that mean?

A plotter is someone who plots out their work. Someone who creates a layout or a plan for their work. It could be an outline or a detailed guide, but a plotter is someone who puts a lot of thoughts into what they are going to write before they start writing.

A pantser, on the other hand, is someone who flies by the seat of their pants. Someone who sits down to a blank page and writes, letting the manuscript take them where it wants to go.

Which one is right?

That’s the fun part. There is no right or wrong! It all depends on what works for you. Each side swears by their process. I’ve found many people are actually somewhere in between. It really doesn’t matter which side you fall on. What matters is that you write.

How do you know who you are?

I’m a plotter, but I have pantser tendencies. I like to create an outline of each book. I go through my own process with each book, getting to know my main characters and figuring out what they want and how they plan to go about getting it.

But when I write, I let the story take me where it should go. I know what scenes I want to write. I know where the story will go, but not every detail about it. I love finding surprises in my story, but not so many that the story carries me away and loses me.

If you’re a pantser, you don’t plan out anything in advance. You just sit and write. I’ve done it, and I was fortunate enough that it worked, but it doesn’t always. For me. Some authors swear by it, and I am constantly amazed by them!

Which side you fall on doesn’t matter. In the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t matter how you write, just that you do. But trust me when I tell you that you’ll save yourself a lot of grief if you know before you start to write what will work best for you.

And yeah, it’s okay to try one way and change to the other!

What appeals to you more – plotting or pantsing?

If you have a question, about writing or anything else, send me an email (mary (at) maryethompson (dot) com) with Q&A in the subject, or post it in the comments below, and I’ll answer your question right here on the blog!

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