Andi Marquette once wanted to be a seafaring pirate. But she realized that could be a problem, growing up in the Rocky Mountain West and Southwest. So she became an editor, anthropologist, and historian instead. But that, too, didn't satisfy her weird cravings for stories and strange realms. Now, she's a writer ensconced in Colorado and when she wants to go pirate-ing, she just makes something up.
So here we are in a new year and I know for a fact that bunches of you are working on manuscripts and once you’re done with your draft, you’re going to hopefully get it submission-ready. That is, you’re going to prep it in hopes that a publisher will think it’s awesome and sexy.
First things first. Not all houses accept a full manuscript for a read. They might just want the first few chapters. Or maybe the first few chapters and the last few. That’s fine. The point is, if you have a full manuscript that’s ready to go, you can easily extract the chapters or first 50 pages or whatever it is the potential publisher may want to see. And you want those to be clean and ready for viewing. So here are 10 things you can do to help you get it that way.
Hope your holidays went awesomely and that you’re well on your way to settling into this latest chronological trip around the sun.
So let’s talk new year, new opportunities.
I don’t make resolutions. Instead, I make a few goals to accomplish but leave options open for opportunities that may spin off said goals and/or things that don’t go so well. I also create new good habits or strengthen existing ones if I haven’t been as engaged as I’d like in those.
So here are 10 things to do to get you into the swing of a new writerly year and to keep you going throughout the year. Or, if you’re not a writer but have other pursuits (whether creative or otherwise), some of these you may be able to tailor to that.
1. Get organized.
I do this at the start of every year. And generally it begins New Year’s Eve with a house-cleaning. I’m pretty regular about cleaning my house, but I do a symbolic one around the end of the year so I go into the new year feeling fresh n’ clean! LOL
Then I usually spend the first week or two of the new year getting rid of material things around the house and donating to charity. Clothing, dishes, furniture — things that have served their purpose but no longer do (at least with me) and someone else no doubt could put them to use. I also begin organizing for tax season, something that you have to do every year regardless, but for writers, there are things you need to organize in terms of deductions and royalties and the like.
Point being: organization and cleaning up can help unclutter your creative energy and help you focus, which might also help with some forms of depression.
2. Set a goal for the one writer project you want to complete this year.
Maybe it’s a novel. Or a novella. Or a few short stories. Whatever it is, create a realistic timeline (part of the “get organized” strategy) and make a schedule. By such-and-such date, for example, you want to have 5,000 words written. Or whatever it is.
TIP: Be realistic about all the commitments in your life. It is possible to work in writing a novel around a day job and a family and all the other things that come up (ask most writers). Even 30 minutes a day once or twice a day can move you to your goal. Carve out the time. If you’re serious about writing or any other goal you have, carve out a bit of time and be open to moving that time block around as you figure out what your schedule is during these first few weeks of the new year and what times of day you’re most creative. Work it that way and stick to it.
Find a writer buddy who is also working on a project who can serve as your cheerleader and nag (lol). Like a workout buddy, your writer buddy will engage in writing sessions with you, whether online or in real time. What that means is, if you’re doing an online writer session, you agree with your writer buddy on a set time on specific days and you check in online and do your writing thang. Then you share what you wrote.
Sometimes you won’t get very far with your word count. So what? The important thing is, you’re producing something and you’re sharing it with your buddy (and she’s sharing it with you). It’s like you’re working out together, showing how many sets and reps you got in. And your buddy might also serve as a beta as you’re going along, which helps with the re-writing aspect of writing. Heh.
4. Take breaks.
From writing. Seriously. Writing burnout can be a thing. I know people tell you to make writing a habit and you have to produce something every day and omg deadlines but guess what? Driving yourself off the road because you’re exhausted or tense or need to deal with other things does not help you complete the journey. Stop at a rest area and stretch your legs (to continue that metaphor).
Make sure you spend time with your loved ones and that you take time for yourself that isn’t the physical act of writing. Writers are ALWAYS writing, because we’re constantly seeing stories all around us and working scenes out in our heads, but the physical act of writing is where you’re staring at your screen and pounding away at your keyboard (or longhand writing; however you do it). I’m talking about taking a break from THAT. Once a week. Once every two weeks. Just a little break from your routine to refresh your mind and give you a jolt of creativity.
5. Get out.
Literally. GET OUTSIDE. Specifically, green space, friends. Wherever you are, go to green space. Some of you live in areas of the country where that’s not difficult. Others have to use what’s been engineered (e.g. Manhattan’s Central Park). Or, hell, take a walk around your neighborhood. Just be OUTSIDE. Make it a point to do that. And also, do not use your phone or other tech when you’re outside. Be present.
What that means is, when you’re doing a writing session, you are writing. Don’t go messing around on social media after you finish a paragraph or a chapter. Get up and walk around or make a cup of tea or something and go back to writing until your scheduled session for the day is done.
Try to minimize your obsession with the rest of the world at least during your writing time but I’m going to STRONGLY suggest that you unplug regularly, for maybe an hour a day. It helps give you perspective and allows you to be present with your thoughts and to engage with the world without the filter of social media.
And in these shitty times, it’s important to ensure you don’t allow yourself to get sucked into the toxicity of what passes for discourse these days. Which is not to suggest that you don’t engage at all online with your contacts, colleagues, and friends. Just don’t get sucked in and make sure you spend time engaging in the real world, too.
7. Eat right.
Creativity needs good fuel. If you’re eating/drinking things that aren’t conducive to overall health, you’re eventually not going to feel completely healthy. And it will run you down, which means you will lose effective writing time. So have a look at your diet and clean it up, friends.
Start with one small thing. For example, switch from soda (even diet, which has its own set of issues) to, for example, sparkling water (the kind that doesn’t have fruit juice, which adds sugars). Almost 6 years ago, I went off caffeine, which meant that I stopped drinking soda. I had been drinking diet colas, but going off caffeine made me quit those. Sure, there are decaf soda options, but I lost the taste for soda really quickly and I don’t miss it at all.
Eat regular meals (and try to eat with your loved ones, no distractions!) and don’t eat late at night. That can contribute to and exacerbate issues. So don’t eat after, like, 6 PM which is what I try to do.
Snack on ready-sliced fruits and veggies. I get this stuff ready ahead of time or buy those packets of baby carrots and dip them into guacamole or tzatziki or I’ll just munch ’em plain.
Lower your unhealthy carbs (i.e. cut back on alcohol and overly processed carb-laden foods). If you start focusing on eating more good proteins and vegetables, you don’t need the energy burst (then crash) that comes with carb and sugar boosts because your body will be effectively fueled all day.
But if you just want a starting point: stop drinking soda and cut back on alcohol. And if you smoke, maybe make that one of your writing goals, to stop. Better overall health means more creative energy and more stories. 🙂
8. Get moving.
Exercise helps with overall health — physical, emotional, mental. And exercise helps clear your mind and energizes you, which funnels right into creative energy.
And you don’t need to join a gym to do it, though that does help get you into a routine. I actually do workouts based on Navy Seals exercises, because I don’t need a gym and I can take the routines on the road (I travel a lot) and they don’t require special equipment.
I do a circuit of those 3-4 times a week, then on non-circuit days I’ll walk or ride a stationary bike or do some other kind of cardio-only then finish with a few sets of core-strenghtening exercises.
It is extremely important to strengthen your core. If you primarily sit to write (I alternate sitting and standing), you need to get up and work your core. Here’s a great list of core exercises that don’t need equipment.
Some of those exercises can be found in this cool list of 50 bodyweight exercises (that is, you don’t need equipment; you’re using your bodyweight as resistance).
Want to start simple? If you can, start walking. If you can’t quite do that, check out the bodyweight resistance exercises and core exercises to build up to moving around more. If you have health issues that preclude just starting on your own to exercise, check with your docs about what you can and cannot do and go with that.
Your body and your mind are interrelated. Keep your body strong and fueled with good stuff and it boosts your brain. 🙂
Be your own Amazon.
Read WIDELY. Across genres. Fiction and nonfiction. Magazines. Blogs. Fanfic. Read all kinds of stuff. Make it a point to stretch your reading comfort zones and read authors from different backgrounds and countries. Engage your critical thinking skills and question not only others, but yourself. This is how we develop and it’s how we create better stories.
10. Have fun.
This can also fall under “self care” (see above, too). My have fun routines include indulging my fangirl side, so I go to see movies or indulge in a staycation in which I get to catch up on some programs I haven’t had a chance to engage with.
I’ll also go out with friends and take day trips to get new perspectives. If you can, do a road trip, even if it’s just a few hundred miles. Get out of your zone, see new/different things, engage with different people. Fuel for stories, friends. Even fun stuff fuels your creative energies.
AND A COUPLE MORE THINGS.
Be kind, to yourself and others. Stay alert and help build the communities that feed your soul.
I’ve been chasing merry elves around and thus haven’t had a chance to swing by and remind y’all that my other site, Women and Words, is having its giant, massive, crazy, blow-out book giveaway event!
It’s Day 6, and we give away around 20-30 books EACH DAY, primarily lesfic/books with strong women protagonists. So swing by and get in on the fun. Go over to Women and Words and all you have to do is leave a comment.
So I decided to post a reading from my Halloween-flavored book, The Secret of Sleepy Hollow, which is my re-telling of the classic American ghost story, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, the short story by Washington Irving (which you can read at Project Gutenberg).
Many of you probably know the story. Or at least parts of it. A lanky, superstitious teacher Ichabod Crane goes to a village in 1790 ostensibly for his job and seems to take a shine to a local woman, Katrina Van Tassel, but local hero guy Abraham “Brom” Bones also has his eye on her. The village is also allegedly haunted by the ghost of a headless horseman. One night at a harvest party, Ichabod gets turned down by Katrina and he leaves. It’s dark and creepy and his over-active imagination created all kinds of scary scenarios…suffice it to say that Ichabod may have met up with the horseman and he ends up disappearing from the village.
There are also other factors involved — was the horseman actually one of the local townsman who didn’t want Crane moving in on Katrina, one of the local women? Did Ichabod just get caught up in local ghost stories and psych himself out and scare himself so badly that he sustained some kind of fatal injury?
Irving leaves Crane’s fate open-ended for conjecture, which made it a lot of fun for me to explore what might have happened to him. And that’s exactly what I did in my re-telling.
Tabitha “Abby” Crane, a doctoral student working on her thesis, doesn’t allow herself much time outside academia. Fortunately, she’s managed to squeeze in a research trip over Halloween weekend to the historical society of Sleepy Hollow, New York, where she hopes to uncover new research on the notorious town’s most infamous legend — that of the headless horseman. But she has a personal stake in this trip: Abby’s own ancestor, Ichabod Crane, disappeared mysteriously over two hundred years ago, perhaps at the hands of the ghostly horseman.
Abby has no reason to expect anything of Sleepy Hollow beyond immersing herself in archival collections and enjoying its Halloween festivities, but then she crosses paths with Katie, who makes her head spin and her heart pound. When Katie invites her on a nighttime visit to the glen where the horseman allegedly rides, Abby can’t say no, upending her plans for a quiet research retreat. And when Abby and Katie, who has her own ties to the famous story, find what may be the key to the disappearance of Ichabod Crane all those years ago, love, legend, and magic intermingle, making clear that Sleepy Hollow has plans of its own for yet another Crane.
So in the scene I’m going to read to you, Abby and her crush girl and fellow history geek Katie are in a pub and Katie invites her to go to the glen outside town, where the horseman allegedly rides. Lots of ghost hunters hang out there, and it’s a major Halloween attraction, so there are more hunters than usual, as everybody is gearing up for the big Halloween celebration in a couple of days, which involves someone local (a strictly guarded secret) dressed up as the horseman who rides Halloween night through the glen. So Abby agrees to go to the glen with Katie…
Have a listen. 🙂
And if you’d like the opportunity to WIN an ebook copy, head on over to Women and Words AT THIS LINK and leave a comment. I’ll pick a winner or two on Tuesday, October 31 at 9 PM EST!
HEY, everybody! Welcome to another wild ride at the Earpstead and through Purgatory. Damn, y’all. DAMN with this episode.
Things continue to ramp up to super-cray as the season winds down. One more episode, friends, and then we all have to wait until Season 3!!!!
Knowing Andras, it’s going to be one hell of a cliffhanger.
Okay, per usual…
THERE ARE SPOILERS IN THIS HERE BLOG. SO MANY SPOILERS I CAN’T EVEN. I MEAN, FOR REALZ! EVERY SINGLE SPOILER YOU CAN POSSIBLY IMAGINE! SO IF YOU DON’T WANT THOSE SPOILERS, BACK THAT AZZ UP AND COME BACK WHEN YOU DO.
Hey, everybody. I’m running a bit late on this recap. The world is a giant steaming bucket of hellfuck, and I think you all know whereof I speak. But Earpers unite, dammit, and let’s do some good in the world with the time we’ve got.
On that note, let’s ponder this last episode, which managed to beat 2.09 in over-the-toppery. Pretty sure the last two episodes of the season will manage to top this one and each other, so just be aware that things are going to get even more cray.
And, as always,
SPOILERS. OMG STOP READING THIS IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THE EPISODE AND YOU PLAN TO BECAUSE HOLY CRAP THERE IS EVERY SPOILER YOU CAN POSSIBLY IMAGINE HEREIN.
I…um. Andras said this episode was going to be basically out of control and she never fails to come through in that regard.
Every episode ratchets up the cray, both with creepiness and internal drama and now we are hurtling toward the end of the season and things are so beyond control right now that I don’t even know how a Season 3 is going to top this. But it’s Andras, and she has an amazing cast, crew, and writing team so there’s that.
Right now, I’m still processing everything that happened in last night’s episode. Everybody on the Twitterz last night was flipping out during the live-Tweeting, and if you watched it live during that, you know whereof I speak.
Let’s get to this.
And, as always…SPOILERS OMG SO MANY SPOILERS STOP RIGHT NOW AND LEAVE IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THE EPISODE AND YOU PLAN ON DOING SO RUN AWAY RIGHT NOW JUST RUN AND DON’T LOOK BACK IF YOU DON’T WANT TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS.
Last week, we lost Juan Carlo but Wynonna also did the vision quest that revealed to her many things, including Bobo’s origins, where the third seal is, and who the seals are entrapping. Also, Waverly finds out that she’s not an Earp and may in fact be Bobo’s daughter. THE CRAY KEEPS CRAY-ING!
I can’t even with this show, you guys. I think after watching an episode of this season that that’s it; it can’t get any freaking crazier and THEN IT DOES. Omg, Andras! You and the writers of this show are phenomenal!
So let’s get to this because srsly, y’all. This is a game-changer episode too, in different ways than the pregnancy plotline.
AND, AS ALWAYS, MASSIVE UNADULTERATED SPOILERS AHEAD! DO NOT READ IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THE EPISODE!
And there was much rejoicing throughout the land. Just go onto Twitter and hit the hashtag for #WynonnaEarp and you’ll see videos posted of the moment of the announcement at the WE fan panel and you, too, can participate in the rejoicing throughout the land.