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Monthly Archives: November 2017


Question: How do you eat an elephant?
Answer: One Bite at a time.

How was your Thanksgiving? Mine was great! My husband was home. My son came to visit from Washington, DC and the food was great! However, I find that I have not been doing as much as I had in the past. Lately I be getting fewer and fewer projects finished. I am sure that a lot of it has to do with my second job as an elementary after school tutor. Then came NaNoWriMo, my husband became sick in the hospital, and then my son and his girlfriend came for Thanksgiving. Now Thanksgiving is in the past and I can start thinking about getting back on track.

Using Fifteen Minute Sprints

I haven’t been doing this all the time, but when I know that I have a lot of work to do on various projects from housework to writing to editing to marketing, I like to prioritize the projects that I have to finish. Next I set a timer for fifteen minutes, focus and get to work at whatever I have to do that day.

 

Take Saturday morning a couple of weeks ago, for instance. I had a number of projects to do. I had to clean house for the weekend. I had this blog post to write, and since it is NaNoWriMo month, I had to make a specific word count for Saturday and every day this month.

 

I started first thing in the morning by sorting out a load of clothes and set the alarm for fifteen minutes. During that fifteen minutes I took dishes out of the dish washer, cleaned off counters, took a few things upstairs, cleaned the coffee maker, cleaned the microwave, and took out the trash. I made a serious dent in getting the kitchen clean. During the next fifteen minutes I wrote long hand a scene for my book. The fifteen minute task completions went on for the rest of the day. I got a lot done, including taking my daughter to and from a school activity.

Rejecting What Doesn’t Work

I have tried other techniques that didn’t work for me.  It might work for others, but they just weren’t a right fit. For instance, I have tried the Pomodoro technique where I would work for twenty-five minutes on a project and then taking five minutes off to get away from it for a few minutes. As I said, I tried, but I really never was able to get into it. since I’ve tried it and it didn’t work, I am letting go of the idea of using it and going back to what I know does work.

I have decided that  I will go back to the fifteen minute sessions because they are short, and I am amazed at how much I can get done in that length of time.

 

Eating the Elephants

Goals are like elephants that have to be eaten one bite at a time. I have found that goals have to be broken down into projects that have to be broken down into smaller and smaller segments until I have bite size tasks that can be done in fifteen minutes. I have learned that if I have something on my to-do list, it needs to be broken down into something that I can do in fifteen minutes.

I start out the first fifteen minutes deciding how I am going to break the goal down into projects and use subsequent fifteen minute sessions to break the projects down to tasks that can be done in fifteen minutes.

Making Plans for the Future

November is coming to an end this week, and I am almost finished with NaNoWriMo. (Just 3 more days left!) Next month is coming up fast and my goal for December is to make plans for next year especially in the area of book marketing.


When I originally started thinking about writing this blog post, I knew that I would write it about gratitude because it was to be a Thanksgiving blog. What I didn’t realize is that my gratitude would be tested this year.

About a month ago, my husband was on the road (he’s an over-the-road truck driver) when suddenly he had sharp pains on the right side of his chest. That following Monday he went to his general physician. He complained of the pain and he was also spiking temperatures and having night sweats. The doctor told him that was his gall bladder and he gave the impression that he didn’t think that it was so bad that Jeff would need surgery for it. He had ordered some blood work that showed that all things seemed normal although he did have “a bit of an infection” the doctor never ordered any x-rays or antibiotics for the infection.

My husband did not want to get gall bladder surgery, so he used every alternative medicine he could find to cleanse his gallbladder. He’d say he felt better and go back to work for a run and then he’d feel sick again. From what I gather, he never really felt better. He just got used to being sick. He went to see his work’s physician for his DOT physical. They gave him a clean bill of health.

He was Sicker than Anyone Thought

Finally, last Wednesday, I woke up in the morning and heard a strange sound. It was a rapid rattling noise that I had not heard before. It was Jeff’s breathing! I told him. “There is no way that is a gallbladder issue. There is something else really wrong.” He decided to go to the doctor. I told our daughter to expect the worst. He was going to the doctor and would probably end up in the hospital. She needed to be prepared for that. I had to take her to school and to not depend on her Dad to do it for her.

His doctor was not in that day and would not be in the next day either so the staff at his practice told him that he would have to go to urgent care. I was teaching my first class of the day when he texted me that he was being admitted to Cox South for pneumonia.

When I got to the hospital that evening, I found out how bad his situation really was. He was going into surgery the next morning to get tubes put in his lungs. He was on three antibiotics. The surgeon thought he would be in the hospital for five to six days. b

From Bad to Worse

The next day, Thursday, I went to work and his mother sat with him as he waited for his surgery. The doctor had said that his surgery would last two hours. It lasted over three hours. When the doctor called us in, he didn’t give us much hope that he would recover quickly or that he would recover at all. He wasn’t even certain that Jeff was coming off the breathing tube they used in surgery. He had said that they drained one and a half liters of fluid off of his lungs. He said that he was very sick.

My daughter and I went to see him after he went to CVICU that night. His body was cold and clammy. He was pale and still. He was covered in tubes and wires and he really looked bad. The nurse was having difficulty getting his pulse and respirations under control.

In one sense, I was extremely angry with the doctors that had seen him during the month prior to his admission to the hospital. His surgeon said that he had been sick for a very long time and yet those doctors had not picked up the diminished lung sounds when they were supposed to have put their stethoscopes to his chest.  When the doctor saw that he had an infection, he didn’t give him any sort of antibiotics. No one even did an x-ray to rule out pneumonia.

I also felt fear. I was afraid. One of the things that went through my mind was that it was during Thanksgiving week that my eldest brother (a year younger than I) had become sick and then died that Saturday after the holiday. My husband born just a couple of months before than he was.  I was afraid I might end up facing the same situation with my husband. I went home that night and knew that I needed to take the day off because I might have to face making decisions. It wouldn’t be fair to my students if I had to leave in the middle of class.

This may sound strange, but I did feel some gratitude. I was thankful that my mother-in-law had been there while I was working. I was grateful that urgent care was so quick to realize that he had something serious going on. I was grateful that he was at the best hospital in Springfield. I was grateful that his surgeon was thorough and didn’t sugar coat anything.

Miracles Happen

The next morning, about nine hours later, after my daughter gave blood at her school, she and I went to the hospital to see him again. Things had changed dramatically. Though he was obviously on pain medications, he was alert and knew what was going on. The breathing tube had\ been removed. He was able to talk to us. Everyone was amazed by how fast he came around.

We stayed until visiting ours were over and went home, took naps ourselves and returned that evening. He was even doing better. He had a full liquid lunch and then had eaten a regular dinner. He had even walked while we were gone. Barring a major set back, the nurse agreed with me that it was not unreasonable to think that he would probably be going home by Thanksgiving. I saw the surgeon on Saturday night and he told Jeff that he was amazed at how well he was doing after what he saw during surgery. It was, in my opinion, a miracle. ,What a relief!

Previous plans changed. My husband\ and daughter were planning to go to visit her sister’s family in Colorado over the holiday. That obvious wasn’t going to happen. However, my son and his girlfriend from Washington, DC had also planned to visit me during that same holiday. They are still coming and my husband\ and daughter will be part of that too, so it will still be a good day. All the more reason to be grateful.


The other day I was talking on twitter with a novice novelist about how I am able to write and publish eleven books. (Two of those books coming out the twenty-third of this month.) Since I am working on yet another book this month for NaNoWriMo, writing fast is my own focus this month, so I gave her a couple of tips. I decided that this would also be a good post for this blog. I therefore expanded those couple of tips to a full ten tips for writing a novel quickly.

 

  1. The first tip that I would give a novelist who is new to the genre is to never call him or herself an “aspiring novelist”. Begin to think of yourself as being rather than aspiring. You either write novels or you don’t. You’re either a writer or you’re not. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never made a dime from writing. You write, therefore you are a writer. You write novels, therefore you are a novelist.

 

You may wonder how being called a novelist helps a novice write faster. It all comes down to “it’s not what people call you, but what you answer to”. I believe that fast writing can only be done by those who believe that they can. They don’t make excuses not to write fast. They do it.

 

  1. If you don’t know how, learn to touch type. I was amazed at how much faster I could get information down since I have been able to type directly from my thought process. Until then, you could use google docs’ dictation feature.

 

  1. Start writing promotional material as soon as you have our idea for your book. Begin writing the book description or blurb. Write your short, medium and long length author bios, determine words that have high ranking search engine optimization. Begin researching and pinning down a title for your book. Create a full synopsis for your book.

 

  1. Research local events where you can promote your books. Connect with other authors online and offline both in your genre and out. Start a blog. Review books by other authors within your genre. Interview those same authors.

 

  1. Let your muse play most of the writing session, especially when writing your first draft. If you have to edit, limit your editing time to five minutes immediately after fifteen minutes of writing.

 

  1. Get to know your characters, the better you know your characters, the better the flow of the story. Your characters will dictate the story to you instead of the other way around.

 

  1. Create a main plot outline and then outlines for subplots and put them in proper order. Taking time to create a map of your story through an outline will help keep you from going down too many rabbit holes that steal writing time.

 

  1. Schedule time to write every day. Even fifteen minutes a day adds up over time. Use Parkinson’s second law which says that you will fill up time with the activity that you give to it. In other words, focus your time by limiting your first draft writing to sprints of fifteen minutes or if you’re just starting out, try five minute sprints. Stop for five minutes, edit a little of what you just wrote if you have to and do another sprint. You’ll be amazed at how much you can get done using this method.

 

  1. Know when you do your best writing and optimize that time. Work the rest of your schedule around that rather than your writing around the rest of your schedule. Making writing a priority will make your written pages pile up like nothing else can.

 

  1. Evaluate your progress and look for ways to improve your writing process. If you’re not satisfied with the progress that you are making in your writing, figure out ways that you can increase your writing speed. Go over these tips and see where you can improve your writing speed. Take a speed typing class. Google, “write faster”. Don’t let yourself make excuses for not being able to write better copy, faster.

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Strange Dreams Lead to New Ideas

Last night I had some vivid dreams. I dreamed about my husband. I dreamed that he was at work with me and we were working with young children. He seemed to enjoy the time with them better than I did. Then I started\ dreaming all over the place and my mind was trying to make sense of it all. I became suddenly confused about what was real and what wasn’t. I dreamed that I lost my phone. When I awoke for real, the first thing I did was look to see if my phone was on the side table and it was. Now I knew I was out of dream world and into the real world. So what was going on in my dreams that they were so vivid yet so confusing?

I think what my dream was trying to do was to try to help me find a good topic for this blog as well as give me some fodder for my current NaNoWriMo project. The hours I slept did both. After finding my phone, I had the ideas for what I was going to write for both. I have ideas for two scenes in my next book that I now call Sunrise on the Mississippi (book 8 of the Locket Saga). The dream sequences are no direct part of this blog nor of the book. What they did do was remind me the value of the muse in the writing process, especially writing the first draft.

Yesterday I wrote a scene in my book, but realized that I also needed an earlier related scene. I just didn’t know how I was going to make it happen. Also I started two topics for this blog that didn’t seem to be exactly what I wanted to write for this blog today. So I slept on it and the dreams were the result of allowing my muse to take some time to play.

What Made the Muse Rebel

I think it all started with something I did a few days ago. I was teaching some students about metaphors and similes. We worked on poems about feelings.

They went something like this:

Love is pink.

It smells like apple blossoms on a tree.

It tastes like chocolate in my Easter basket.

It sounds like birds twitter-pating.  (a term from the Bambi movie)

It feels like a baby bunny’s white fur.

It looks like a field of white clover.

It makes me feel alive again.

I believe this triggered my muse to complain that I haven’t allowed her to play for a while. The past few months I have been neglecting her. I have been editing old material, researching historical events and writing nonfiction. Even as I started writing this new book, I haven’t given the muse much room. I have been organizing the material that I researched, but not allowing my creative juices to flow. Today that ends.

Today I take heed of my muse’s complaint and give her a chance to play. Today my NaNoWriMo project turns a page and I will allow my muse free range on the pages of my manuscript. Today she can play all over that book’s draft by allowing her the ability use the five senses to create metaphors and similes and most importantly, emotions for the reader to experience.

Can I Allow the Muse out more often?

I think it a shame that I have kept my muse under such a short leash for such a long time. NaNoWriMo is a great way to give the muse a chance to do her think, but I really need to find ways of allowing her to play more often. One of the areas where I can utilize her talents is in identifying with my readers. Most people buy books not because of need or rational thought, but because they are moved by emotions. When this NaNoWriMo project is done (at least for the day), I am going to look into how I can create emotion for potential readers that encourages them to purchase one or more of my books.I am sure there are more ways to tap into the muse for better writing results.

When and why do you let your muse out to play?

 

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