Monday, May 18, 2009

Disciplined? Or Delusional?

My guest is Superromance Author Beth Andrews. Beth’s dream was to be published and this small time girl worked hard at improving her writing skills to accomplish that. Beth is no stranger to rejected submissions—years of them.

In 2006 and 2007, she caught a break for all her hard work. She was a finalist with two manuscripts in the RWA Golden Heart in 2006. In 2007 she won the golden Heart. It was bought by Harlequin Superromance and published as Not Without Her Family.

Today she talks about lessons learned and how she juggles family life and her writing.




I’ve never considered myself a particularly disciplined person but all of that changed when I decided to become a writer. Believe me, sitting at your computer each day producing pages takes what I call the Three Big Ds: Dedication, Determination and a boatload of Discipline.

Now, the first two I had covered. It’s easy for me to be dedicated to writing because honestly, I love writing. I love the entire process of writing from taking the initial idea and fleshing out into a full story, I love getting to know my characters, coming up with scene ideas and writing that first draft. I also love polishing those first pages into a final draft and using the revisions from my editor to make the story the best it can be.

Determination? Yep, I’ve got that too. From the time I decided I wanted to be a romance author I was determined to be published. I knew it wouldn’t be easy but that was okay because the end result was worth the years of honing my craft, submissions and yes, even those heart-breaking rejections.

But discipline? Ugh. Even just typing the word gives me the heebie jeebies. It goes against my very, laid-back, see-what-happens, there’s-plenty-of-time-to-get-things-done nature. Yet I knew that to be successful, to accomplish my writing goals, I’d need to suck it up and put my bordering-on-chaotic life into some sort of order. Here are a few tricks and tips I’ve learned over the years:


Smaller Is Better. This tip is from a NYT Bestselling author. When I asked her for some time management tips, she told me how she uses a regular Post-It note for her To-Do List. This works because it forces you to prioritize your goals and narrow them down into a manageable list. At the beginning of each month I write my goals for that month in a notebook. Sometimes this takes up two pages! Looking at the long list can be totally overwhelming but by taking this advice, I’ve accomplished more in the last three months then I ever thought possible. I simply look through my Master List, take the top 3-5 (depending on how small I write *g*) items and put them on a Post-It note. Then I work down the list and when the day is over, I simply toss the Post-It and start a new list tomorrow. (This can also be done on your computer. Just remember the key is to keep the list small and manageable.)

First Thing’s First. This is advice I’ve known and was reiterated to me by another NYT Bestselling author. Prioritize your To-Do List and take the first thing, the ONE thing you want to get done that day and get it done first. This advice works for full time writers and those who have full time jobs as well. If you’ve set aside an hour in the evening and the first thing on your list is to write 3 pages, do that first. An average day for me consists of getting my pages done first then my exercise and only after both of those have been accomplished do I allow myself to check e-mail and blogs (unless I’m the one blogging *g*) I’ve found that if I push back either of those items until ‘later’, I never get them done.

Chunk It. I discovered a while back that although I loved to multi-task, I wasn’t getting anything done. Oh, I was working on lots of projects and was busier than ever but nothing was ever finished. I knew I needed a change so I started Chunking. All that means is I concentrate on one thing at a time and I set aside certain times of the day or week to get them done. For example, I’ve now set aside Saturday mornings for writing blogs, updating my website and sending out mailings. Knowing I have an entire morning I can dedicate to these tasks makes it a lot easier to set them aside during the week and concentrate on my writing.

So, even though I still shudder at the word, I’m slowly learning how to become disciplined and I’m always on the lookout for more tips and tricks for making the most of my time. What about you? Anyone have any time management tips to share?

Which of the Three Big Ds is easiest for you? The hardest?

***


As a stay-at-home mother of three children, Beth Andrews decided to put pen to paper (or, in her case, fingers to keyboard) and pursue her dream of becoming a published author. After much trial and error, Beth discovered her writing process—daydreaming, mumbling to herself, playing Spider Solitaire…and writing, of course.

Beth’s stories have netted her three Golden Heart finals and in 2007—a coveted win. Her winning manuscript, Not Without Her Family, sold to Harlequin Superromance—marking the achievement of her original dream and the beginning of what she hopes is a long career writing the stories she loves.

When Beth’s not writing (or daydreaming, mumbling to herself or playing Spider Solitaire) she can be found making some of the many recipes she collects, redecorating her home or stringing beads together. She has been honored by her kids as “The Only Mom in Town Who Makes Her Children Do Chores” and “The Meanest Mom in the World”—as if there’s something wrong with counting down the remaining days of summer vacation until school starts again. To learn more about Beth, her books or to get her latest favorite recipe, check out her Web site.

Beth's website: http://www.bethandrews.net/
Blogs: Romance Bandits - http://romancebandits.blogspot.com/
Writers At Play - http://www.writersatplay.com/wordpress/


A NOT-SO-PERFECT PAST ~ April '09 Harlequin Superromance
HIS SECRET AGENDA ~ October '09 Harlequin Superromance
Beth is offering a copy of her latest book to one lucky commenter. We'll let you know who you are a bit later.

47 comments:

~Sia McKye~ said...

Beth, welcome to Over Coffee. A wonderful article.

Help yourself to the fresh Scones and Muffins. We have coffee, tea, and Hot chocolate.

Sherrie Super said...

Great article! I particularly enjoyed the discipline tips. I'll have to give some of them a try, definitely!

~Sia McKye~ said...

I really liked the thought behind Chunk it. I have so much going on that I don't get the writing done I want to do. So this sounds like a great idea.

Thanks for stopping by Sherrie!

Other Lisa said...

It goes against my very, laid-back, see-what-happens, there’s-plenty-of-time-to-get-things-done nature.HAHAHAH! OMG, do I recognize myself there. I've been a procrastinator since...always. Childhood. But also a perfectionist. I learned early that if I drank Coca Cola I could stay up late and get school projects done at the last possible moment. Boy did I do some kick-ass dioramas under the influence of Coke. As it were.

One thing that really works for me and that I need to get back to...it was so simple, and it wasn't that I wasn't getting a lot of writing done. But what turned the corner for me was two hours a night, two pages a night (I believe these were single-spaced pages, originally). For whatever reason, just adopting that simple discipline made me so much more productive, and it also cleared away a lot of blocks and angst.

I can't say I've been keeping to that lately, and I can say that I've suffered for it!

Great article; I really enjoyed it.

Adina Pelle said...

This is wonderful ! A boat load of good advice for the scattered brain like myself.
I always wondered how am I going to hold on to my ideas, to my writings as I write more and more every day …I am the most disorganized person left on the face of the earth…

Judi Fennell said...

daily goals - especially since selling a series - are a must! Otherwise, it's so much easier to say I'll get to it tomorrow - before you realize it you're out of tomorrows.

Beth said...

Good morning, Sia! Thank you so much for inviting me to blog with you. I'd love some coffee and a scone - I'm all about scones! I can't wait for the berries on my blueberry bushes to produce fruit so I can make blueberry scones :-)

Beth said...

Hi, Sherrie! I'm glad you enjoyed the tips. Thanks for stopping by *g*

Beth said...

Sia, I found Chunking tasks works really well for me. I'm the type of person who convinces herself I need a clean slate (or a blank To-Do List) before I can write. Unfortunately, I NEVER have a blank To-Do List *g* Setting aside time to get caught up on non-writing essentials was a huge stress reliever :-)

Beth said...

did I do some kick-ass dioramas under the influence of Coke.As it were.ROFL! Too funny, Other Lisa *g*

Two hours a night/two pages a night is a great tip! Actually, I do something similar (if it wasn't for the fact that my drug of choice is Mountain Dew, we might be twins *g*) I write first draft pages fairly quickly but slow down when I revise. And knowing I could tweak and fiddle FOREVER, I only allow myself 30 min a page that day.

This tends to work for me since I revise as I go so while the first pass of a certain page may take the full 30 min, the next day may take only 10 and by the third day, I've hopefully nailed it :-)

Beth said...

Hi, Adina! I often feel very disorganized and that feeling can really add stress. As for ideas, if it's an idea for the story I'm working on, I write it in that story's notebook right away so I don't forget. I know I can always incorporate it during revisions *g*

Since new story ideas tend to just pop into my head, I've started two idea files. One on my pc where I free write everything I know about an idea - characters, premise, plot points. The other is a file folder where I keep articles that inspired ideas or notes I jot down away from my pc.

Knowing I have those ideas out of my head makes it so much easier for me to concentrate on my work-in-progress *g*

Becky said...

I am somewhat discipline, but I do a lot of multi-tasking. When I multi-task, I do get the small jobs done. I like to what until last minute on most stuff though.

Beth said...

Morning, Judi! Congrats on your series! I so agree with you about setting daily goals and being careful not to run out of tomorrows.

My CP and I call those tomorrows our 'wiggle room' as in, "Oh, I can go to lunch today because I have 'wiggle room' incorporated into this deadline. We've learned that 'wiggle room' runs out *g*

And honestly, I'd rather have those extra days after I've met my deadline. Much less stress inducing ;-)

~Sia McKye~ said...

Samantha Hunter at 9:50am May 18 Facebook

Loved this book. :) Beth is an auto-read for me.

Sheila Deeth said...

Great article. Very encouraging. Thanks.

Conda V. Douglas said...

Thank you, Beth, great suggestions! I, too, struggle with distractions, I sometimes believe every creative person is ADD. I keep what I call a "running list" and that helps, both as reminders and it diminishes the distractions.

Beth said...

Hi, Becky! I know a lot of people (women, especially *g*) who are wonderful multi-taskers. I'm just not one of them :-)

I had to figure out what worked for me which is what I consider the most important lesson of all. Same with my writing process. The way that I produce a story may not work for anyone else but as long as it allows me to finish a book, I'm happy ;-)

Beth said...

Sia, thanks for posting the comment by Samantha Hunter! I'm afraid since I'm under deadline, I don't have as much Facebook time as I'd like *g* Which is why I'm always looking for more time management tips!

Beth said...

Thanks, Sheila. I'm glad you enjoyed the post *g*

Beth said...

I sometimes believe every creative person is ADD.LOL, Conda! I tend to agree with you there *g*

Keeping a running list is a great idea. I know the reason I often let my writing time slide in order to get other things done is because I'm afraid I'll forget to do them
:-)

Helen Ginger said...

I have multiple major projects going on and feel like I can't ignore any of them. So I do something similar to you (without the post-it notes). I make a list of what has to be done each day, then assign a time limit (half an hour, one hour, etc.), then number them according to priority. I feel like I have to get something done on each project so that they're all moving forward.

Helen
Straight From Hel

Anna Campbell said...

Beth, what a great column. Actually the master list/daily list thing is a trick I learned from Margie Lawson. It works a treat. I hate to feel like a failure - I find it's counter productive. So if I can cross out a few things every day, I feel like I've achieved. Congratulations on the release of A NOT SO PERFECT FAMILY. It's currently sitting at the top of my TBR pile as a reward for finishing this *&*^^%%% first draft. How's that for impressive discipline? LOL!

Hi Sia! Thanks for having one of my favorite writers around. I thought NOT WITHOUT HER FAMILY was an outstanding debut!

Trish Milburn (Tricia Mills) said...

Good post, Beth. I'm a fan of chunking too.

Vivian A said...

Depending on the day, my flaw of choice changes. Seriously, discipline would be the most critical skill to grasp at this point. Great advice, thanks Beth. Chunking sounds more effective than the flailing I've been indulging in for the last few months.

Beth said...

That's a great tip, Helen! When my To-Do List grows too long to ignore, I set time limits on projects as well. I've found I have to set a timer or else I'll keep working :-)

Beth said...

Hey there, Anna! Thanks for popping over from the Romance Bandits' Lair and for saying such nice things about Not Without Her Family. And as someone who is always anxiously awaiting your next release, I say keep writing! Your TBR pile will just have to wait :-)

Margie Lawson has some fantastic time management tips, doesn't she? Like you, I love being able to check something off of my list. Sometimes I'll even add a task I've completed to the list just so I can cross it off *g*

Beth said...

Thanks, Trish! And thanks for stopping by. It's always so nice to 'see' my fellow Banditas :-)

Beth said...

Vivian, I think we all have those periods where we flail a bit. We just have to put it behind us and start fresh :-)

I hope Chunking works for you!

Anna Campbell said...

Ha ha, Beth. I thought I was the only person who did that! But there's something so activating about having something done, isn't there?

Anna Campbell said...

By the way, whenever I see Chunking, I think of a town in China. Clearly I've been at the computer too much lately!

Tawny said...

Beth!!! My favorite author :-) I love your tips, especially the post-it note one. I'm notorious for creating a mile long to do list and then getting ill looking at it LOL. I'm going to give the post-its a try. And hey, I can color code them!!!

Beth said...

But there's something so activating about having something done, isn't there?LOL! Some days it feels like I get nothing done so adding even the smallest task to the list and crossing it off is an accomplishment :-)

Beth said...

Hey, Tawny! If it isn't my partner in Wiggle Room theories *g*

Tawny is my awesome critique partner who makes sure I strive to reach my goals. She also has a fabulous new book out with Blaze this month. If you like sexy cowboys, you'll love Going Down Hard :-)

Of course you should color code your post-its! Just don't expect me to ;-)

Kate Carlisle said...

Hi Beth! Wow, what great advice. And I'm so in need of it, after getting whipped during this latest bout of revisions. I'm pitifully undisciplined and disorganized, but determined to shape up! I'm cutting and pasting your tips right next to my computer. I especially like the chunking idea. Saturday morning, you write your blogs. What a good idea. Simple but effective. Thanks!

jo robertson said...

Great article, Beth. I would never have guessed that you were anything other than a Type-A personality! I love the idea of chunking and will give it a try.

I must admit that my exercising is a determent to my writing. After an one of exercise and another half hour of cooling down and showering, my muse seems to have gotten all sweaty and run down LOL. So I'm trying writing the very first thing when I get up, well, the second thing -- waking up is first!

Caren Crane said...

Beth, my challenge is definitely Discipline! If I give myself an inch, I take a mile. *g* Getting back on track is really hard once I'm knocked off, too. I admire your techniques and would love to try them. I use the "Chunk It" method at work and it really helps a lot. It's harder to do at home, but I'm getting there. Thanks for a great post!

And Sia, darling, thank you for hosting our lovely Beth! I hope everyone will pop over and visit Beth and the rest of us Banditas at http://romancebandits.blogspot.com. See you soon!

~Sia McKye~ said...

Hola Banditas!

Anna, I can assure you, having any of you guys or lady guys on here is my privlege. :-)

Beth said...

Hi, Kate! The only ideas that work for me are simple as I tend to get overwhelmed easily *g*

Thanks for stopping by!

Beth said...

I would never have guessed that you were anything other than a Type-A personality!LOL, Jo! That cracks me up because and I'm sure it would crack up my husband and kids too - all Type-As ;-)

I've tried different schedules such as exercising first then writing but that didn't work for me. As long as I get my workout in before the kids come home from school, I'm happy *g*

Beth said...

Caren, I'm very familiar with taking a mile *g* Starting a project is difficult for me but I'm getting much better at it. The biggest thing I've learned since I started writing is that I need to just keep trying. Each day is a new opportunity to improve :-)

Beth said...

Thanks again, Sia, for inviting me to blog and thank you all for stopping by!

Night, all :-)

~Sia McKye~ said...

Tawny, I've looked, but darn it, I can't find
Going Down Hard. I have one more place to look. I so want to read Sierra's story. Of course you know that from when you were blogging here. :-)

Caren, good to see you. I'll have you know I made a red velvet cake just this weekend. I cheated though, I grabbed a box but it was still very good and my son raved and promptly ate two pieces. I swear the kid has hollow legs.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Jo, I'm like you. I have to do my writing first or my day gets eaten up with other tasks and I'm frustrated. Also doing the exercise thing. Gotta drop 45 lbs I put on not being able to do anything. Knee surgery done and walking every day.

Kat Sheridan said...

Stopping by a day late, but I wanted to say what a great article this was, and incredibly timely advice! It's my first day of being unemployed and I need to figure out a whole new daily schedule now that I'll actually have time to write! Wonderful ideas here!

Tawny said...

Tawny, I've looked, but darn it, I can't find
Going Down Hard. I have one more place to look. I so want to read Sierra's story. Of course you know that from when you were blogging here. :-)
Oh man, I hope you find it, Sia. If not, drop me a note ;-) And thank you!!!

~Sia McKye~ said...

Will do Tawny.

Beth, it's been a pleasure having you Over Coffee.

Thanks for the great tips and fun discussion.

Beth said...

Sorry I didn't get a chance to stop by yesterday! Kat, good luck with your new schedule!

Sia, thanks again for having me over coffee ;-)