10 things you can do for a productive writerly new year

Hi, all!

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.

Here’s a cool link over at Author Media that helps you create a writing schedule that works for you.

3. Buddy up.

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.

Looks like Xena finished up that one section of the Sappho scroll…

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.

6. Unplug.

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.

9. Read.

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.

Happy New Year!

10 things I’m looking forward to in 2017

Hey, all!

So the Hootenanny over at the blog I co-admin, Women and Words, kept us crazy and busy, and I’m pretty sure we must’ve given away around 500 books. But I don’t even want to count for sure.

Also, in case you didn’t realize, I do a Fangirl Friday blog over there almost every Friday about what I’m fangirling over, so if that’s up your ally, give it a whirl. This past Friday’s was my thoughts about Carrie Fisher.

And in keeping with my fangirl obsessions, I’m also on Tumblr and I’m writing a Clexa fic at Archive of Our Own.

Anyway, I just want to say that for the most part, 2016 was full of serious suckage. So here, I’m listing 10 things I’m looking forward to in 2017, provided the new regime doesn’t shut down the Internet and start rounding people like me up (only partially kidding).

1. Wynonna Earp Season 2. OMG I can’t EVEN! SO EXCITED about this! Wynonna Earp provided balm to my broken Clexa heart in the wake of the bullshit that was S3 of The 100. Queer and POC rep! Possible March premiere of Wynonna Earp S2. More of my fangirling over it. By the way, shout-out to the Wynonna Earp fandom, which organized and was largely responsible for convincing the network (SyFy) to renew for a second season. Well done, my peeps. Well done.
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2. Killjoys Season 3. Killjoys, too, provided some balm to my little wounded heart in the wake of The 100 and yay, it was renewed for a third season. Ass-kicking women, great plots, space opera awesome-ness. Queer and POC rep. It’s well worth your time to check this series out. And here’s me fangirling over it.

3. Star Wars Episode VIII: This is the last Star Wars appearance of Carrie Fisher, if I’m not mistaken, and I’ll most likely cry when I see her on the screen, but damn, Star Wars. Thank GAWD for Star Wars in my life. It feeds my little space opera/spec fic/adventurous soul.

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4. Resident Evil: The Final Chapter – Yeah, whatever! I enjoy the Resident Evil movies because HELLO. Mila Jovovich kicking serious ass all over the screens as Alice, battling the evil corporate empire and various zombies and whatever the hell else she has to deal with. Woman power, y’all!

And yes, that is Guns n’ Roses playing. How can you not want to see this movie?

Notice my theme, here? Fangirling and escapism. If only I could have my own band of outlaws and take to space…

5. ClexaCon, Las Vegas, March: HOLY SHIT I am SO STOKED about this. ClexaCon is the inaugural con for queer women in media, named in honor of the iconic ship Clexa, from The 100. I will be attending as press (Women and Words) and I will be blogging and Tweeting about it and I may be moderating a panel. We shall see! If you’re interested, here’s an interview I did with some of the organizers.

6. Releasing a few more books/novellas. Okay, so, I’ve been kind of tight-lipped about what I’m up to in that regard, and I usually am (weird superstition), but I am going to be publishing a few things this year. So stay tuned. 🙂

7. Writing more fanfic: I dunno. I’m really enjoying this, so I may actually write some more this year. Probably Clexa, but you never know. And holy shit, I may actually do some AU Clexa. WTF? lol

8. Continued work building community: Some of you know that I and bunches of colleagues do lots of community-building through Women and Words and organizations like GCLS as well as through various other organizations, and I love doing it. I’m going to keep doing that — and I think we need it now more than ever.

9. Hopefully some more travel, provided the new regime doesn’t put travel restrictions on people it deems “unworthy” (again, only partially kidding…ugh). I would LUUUUUV to go to New Zealand and Australia, so if anybody in those countries feels like putting up a half-cracked weirdo American fangirl/author like myself, let me know! LOL

10. A super-secret project I can’t tell you about yet. Really looking forward to it, and you’ll be the first to know when it drops. 😀

Regardless, stay strong, my friends. Stick up for each other, speak out, and remember who you are. Much love for 2017.

Crisis of Faith (in writing)

Greetings, peeperas y peeperos!

I hope this past weekend was awesome for you.

Me, I’ve been having deep thoughts all over the place, like these over at Women and Words.

And the ones I’ll be revealing here. Don’t freak out when you start reading. Read the whole thing. There’s an HEA.

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Powers of Observation

Well, hello there, peeps!

I hope your holidays were wonderful and that you had some fun and got some rest. As you know, I was outta control over at Women and Words with our giant 12-day giveaway we call the Hootenanny. And things get CRAY CRAY over there. This year we also did a concurrent Rafflecopter giveaway that included a couple of Kindle Fires and…well, it was insane and fun but kind of exhausting.

At any rate, let’s get back to work!

Today I wanted to talk about observation. I bring this up because a huge part of writing is (or should be) observation. Think about it. How your characters speak and act. The quirks they have. Their surroundings. The settings of your stories. And, going a bit meta, the things your characters actually observe during the course of your plot, how they filter it, how they relate it to others.

So let’s chat further about this.

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Andi’s 10 reasons you should totally go to writing conferences

Hi, all!

Holy outta control calendars, Batman! It’s been a crazy two weeks but here I am with some MOAR TIPS!

As some of you know, I attended the Golden Crown Literary Society (GCLS) conference in New Orleans toward the end of July. I try to go every year (though I have missed a couple since I started publishing) because literary/writing conferences provide invaluable opportunities for both writers and readers.

For those of you who are writers just starting out, make the time and save the money to attend at least one conference a year. Gatherings like that are invaluable aspects of your writing career. For those of you who have been at this a while, you might already know that you need to attend writing conferences. If you didn’t know that, well, here’s why:

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On writing (or not) religion

Hi, peeps!

I heard that George Michael song the other day during a throwback radio show. You know the one. “Faith.”

And I got to thinking about that. There are many kinds of “faith.” Faith in yourself. Faith in your friends. Faith in your family. Faith that you’ll get that big promotion. Faith that things will work out. And, of course, the kind of faith that too often gets grafted onto religion.

I say this because a few days back, someone asked me if I go to church. I immediately froze, because I’m not comfortable with questions like that. The person proceeded to tell me that I’d probably feel better if I prayed. Which only made me even more uncomfortable.

Why? Because it’s presumptuous to think that everybody thinks like you do. And it’s presumptuous to think that your way of coping with something (i.e. religion) is for everybody. I try to be mellow about statements like this, because I’m sure the statements come from good intent. But nonetheless, it comes off as patronizing and, honestly, proselytizing. And yes, I have an uneasy relationship with organized religion, given my current go ’round on this planet as a woman and as someone who identifies as not straight.

And before you ask, I’m one of THOSE people who tends not to discuss religion publicly. I will occasionally discuss politics, but when it comes to religion, I just don’t go there. Why? Well, because I consider religious and spiritual beliefs to be a personal matter, so I don’t ever ask people what theirs are nor do I offer anything about mine. If someone asks, we can discuss it privately. Otherwise, it’s not something I address and it’s never something I ask people.

Why am I thinking about this?

Go see!

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Happy holidays…wait, what? Get your short stories ready!

Hi, peeps!

Hope everything and everybody are treating you well. April has been a whirlwind of crazy bizzy, but it’s all good.

Anyway, I bring up the holidays, friends, because there are usually many opportunities to submit short stories to holiday anthologies at many different publishers. Now, I’m not going to delve into whether or not said anthologies make money, but they remain pretty dang popular every year. And some publishers turn them into really cool fundraising opportunities for good causes, like Ylva did last year with their anthology, Unwrap These Presents. ALL profits go to organizations that help homeless LGBTQ youth. (full disclosure — I have a story published in this anthology)

At any rate, so what, Andi? It’s NOT EVEN FREAKING MAY AND HERE YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT DECEMBER HOLIDAY CRAZY.

Indeed. But I do this because if you want to get your stories in said anthologies, you need to start writing NOW. That’s one of the issues with holiday anthologies. You have to start thinking about it at least 6-7 months in advance and get that story hammered out and submitted. I personally enjoy writing for holiday anthologies because of a bit of personal baggage.

That is, I am so not a fan of the November-December holidays. Christmas is a particular drag for me, but I realized some years back that I get to decide my holiday fate, so I make it a point not to get involved in the absolute nuttiness and rampant commercialism of the season. My friends and family all agreed that instead of doing that, we’d engage in good works and fun and relaxed party things and we all discovered that we are way happier and less stressed at that time of year than in the past.

So I’ve decided that part of my holiday therapy, if you will, is to make it a regular thing to write a story or novella or something comparable that deals with some aspect of the November-December holidays and either get it published or post it somewhere. I particularly like romance/romantic comedies that time of year, so that’s probably going to be a recurring theme.

Having said that, I actually just started writing a holiday novella a couple of nights ago. The idea hit me the day I started writing it. I went home after work and BOOM. Writing crazy. Most likely it’ll be done toward the end of May and then all my critique peeps will rip it apart and I’ll rewrite is 32 times and then see what kind of publishing venue is out there for it. If nobody wants it, I may make it available on Kindle. We’ll see…

So for now, friends, start thinking about holiday anthologies as possible venues for your work. Ylva loves holiday anthologies, and they’re doing one this year, too. F/F romance and/or erotica.

CHECK IT. Deadline is July 15. Get crackin’.

Or perhaps you feel more comfie writing creepy Halloween stories this time of year. GREAT. Ylva loves Halloween anthologies, too.

CLICK. Deadline is May 31. Get creepin’.

Or, if you totally don’t want to do holidays in that vein at all, consider submitting to me and my co-editor R.G. Emanuelle for a second round of F/F FOOD and ROMANCE/EROTICA. FOR REALS! We’d love to consider your work.

CLICK RIGHT HERE BECAUSE OMG YOU SO WANT TO CONTRIBUTE TO OUR FORTHCOMING ORDER UP ANTHOLOGY OMG I KNOW YOU DO.

Anyway, if you know of any other holiday anthologies, please feel free to share in the comments. Other readers will totally appreciate that. And for now, start thinking about getting stories ready. After all, you don’t need snow to feel festive.

Happy writing, happy Thursday!

“It was a dark and stormy night”: on openers

Howdy, peeps!

So a couple of folks expressed interest in how to write an effective opener for a novel.

To which I say, “good luck.”

Heh.

And then I supply links LIKE THIS, which have the alleged “100 best first lines from novels”, posted by the American Book Review site. I must say, Iain M. Banks’ line from The Crow Road is a grabber: “It was the day my grandmother exploded.”

Hit that link at Amazon and you’ll be able to read the first few pages to determine what that’s about.

At any rate, what makes a great opening line? Well, I’d say that’s a topic up for debate, depending on a reader’s taste. But overall, let’s try to dissect what makes a great first line in terms of writing craft. Here are five things to think about.

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Things that are kind of awesome when you’re not writing

Howdy, peeps!

As some of you know if you follow this here bloggie thingie, I’m in the middle of a bit of a writing burnout and I’m actually not currently writing (stories/novels/novellas), which, though a relief in some ways, comes with its own set of issues (OH NOES I AM SLIPPING INTO WRITING OBSCURITY AND NO ONE WILL EVER CARE THAT I WAS ONCE HERE WRITING *gnashes teeth tears hair reaches for glass of bourbon*).

Regardless, I had to take a break because it just got way too scary trying to balance everything and not take any time to simply live and I started worrying about things like emotional health. And I’ve found some awesome things since I went on writing vay-kay. Here they are, in no particular order:

YOU MUST CLICK TO SEE! MUAH HA HA!

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Unwrap these presents, y’all, and help homeless LGBTQ youth!

Hey! Got some great news yesterday from Ylva Publishing.

The holiday anthology Unwrap These Presents is HOT OFF THE EBOOK PRESS available right now as we speak.cover_A_Unwrap-These-Presents_500x800

It’s got a ton of authors (full disclosure: I’m one of them) and ALL PROCEEDS go to benefit 2 organizations that help homeless LGBTQ youth:
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The Ali Forney Center in New York City
The Albert Kennedy Trust in the UK

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I’m going to give you a stat, friends.

Some FORTY PERCENT of homeless youth are LGBTQ and nearly 7 in 10 respondents in this 2012 study about homeless LGBTQ youth said that family rejection was a major contributing factor to their homelessness.

Rolling Stone recently did a piece on homeless LGBTQ youth, and it will give you a stark picture of what these young people face without a support network.

We hope you’ll help us help these two wonderful organizations, and consider helping similar organizations and programs in your area whether through donations or volunteering.

To purchase Unwrap These Presents from Amazon.us, click HERE.

To purchase Unwrap These Presents from Amazon.uk, click HERE.

To donate directly to the Ali Forney Center, click HERE.
To donate directly to the Albert Kennedy Trust, click HERE.

Thank you so much for reading, and thank you for helping us share some luv.

Happy Sunday!