Shelley Widhalm

Posts Tagged ‘Writing Tips’

Why Work with Other Readers, Writers First

In Editing, Editing Advice, Editing as Part of Writing, Editing Tips, Writing, Writing Advice, Writing Tips on August 1, 2021 at 7:00 am

Don’t spin in circles with your writing, but try to find other writers and readers to give your work an evaluation before hiring an editor.

By SHELLEY WIDHALM

For writers wanting to self-publish, hiring an editor is an investment, as is getting a great cover design and the correct formatting for an upload.

But writers can do some of the editing work themselves—they can self-edit, work with a critique group or partner, and send off their work to beta readers.

Start with Self-Editing

To do their own self-editing, writers can use a checklist to evaluate the issues of their work (novel, novella or short story collection). Often in question format, checklists go over each element of writing, including plot, character, dialog, setting, tension, conflict, pacing and themes. They can help with things like gaps in plot, inaccurate calendars if it’s June but winter, and blurred secondary characters that sound the same or serve roles that could be combined.

Writers also can revise the book as a first “reader,” looking for skipping of plot points, logistical misalignments and description inconsistencies, as well as areas where the book is boring or moves too quickly, glossing over essential story points.

I like to do this and then do a couple more rounds while still looking at pacing, identifying what doesn’t make sense and where there are gloss-overs in descriptions or dialog. Could things that are summarized be set into scene for instance?

Work with Others

Once the book has gone through at least two rounds of editing, ask for feedback—more than one evaluation is ideal for varied and more comprehensive comments. Evaluations are essential since writers miss things from being too close to their work and not having the ability to encounter it for the first time as new readers.

Feedback can come from beta readers or a critique partner or critique group. Beta readers are readers first, while critique or writing partners are readers who also are writers.

Find a Critique Partner

Critique partners (and groups) generally do an exchange of work to provide feedback, typically more general in nature as opposed to looking for grammar, spelling and punctuation issues.

They can point out where the writing gets muddy—descriptions might be unclear or assume reader knowledge about a specialized topic. They can check character identities to see if details of appearance are consistent throughout (brown eyes stay brown) and that characters are differentiated by their mannerisms, speaking styles and ways of approaching life.

Working with partners is way to figure out what’s not working in the story and to get suggestions for making improvements.

Add Beta Readers

Beta readers may not enjoy writing but do love reading. They should have a basic knowledge of what makes for good writing, as well as an understanding of the elements of the craft. They also should read in the book’s genre.

Beta readers provide feedback based on their skills, knowledge and experience of writing. Like with writing partners, they point out what they think isn’t working in the manuscript and offer ideas for improvement without changing the writer’s voice. They point out areas that don’t make sense and ask questions, providing clarity on how the reader experiences the work.

Make the Hire

Once the book has had a critical audience, then it’s time to hire an editor, either at the developmental or copy editing level.

An editor will give that professional overall or line-by-line view of the work, not skipping over things because personal life gets in the way or they’re learning about the craft or the genre. They are paid to pay attention to every aspect of the work, identifying areas to fix and asking targeted questions for a rewrite, or simply polishing it up to make it ready to publish.

Note: I provide editing, writing and ghostwriting services and can help you perfect your project from an article or blog series to a short story or novel. I also offer consultations on writing and editing through #ShellsInk at shellsinkservices.com.

Lucky 7 is Almost Here

In Uncategorized on June 21, 2021 at 7:00 am

Writers can get quick tips on writing and editing with “50 Tips for First-Time Authors.” Pull up a chair, get your favorite beverage and dive right in to learn writing, editing and publishing tips.

By SHELLEY WIDHALM

Seven is a lucky number that represents perfection and completion, both physical and spiritual.

There also are seven days of the week, seven continents and seven brides for seven brothers. Seven has a lot of mathematical play with repetition and multiplication*. And it is the number of objects you can hold in your head when they are placed on a table. After that, counting is needed.

I counted 50 of my best writing, editing and publishing tips in my book, 50 Tips for First-Time Authors, which I published in print and e-book formats on 7/7 in 2020 (a year some consider not so lucky with the worldwide pandemic, social isolation and mask-wearing and other mandates).

The Lucky 7

This year on Lucky 7, or July 7, I will have my e-book at a lucky discounted rate, so that you can get a quick jumpstart into the writing life.

Leading up to that day, I will have other discounts, the first of which is for 7 days June 21-28. Through a Kindle Countdown Deal, the e-book will sell for $0.99 June 21-24, then for $1.99 June 24-28. It will return to the regular price of $2.99 at midnight PDT.

In my book, I assembled the best tips I’ve gathered during my 20 years of writing novels and four years of professional editing to help writers get their books publication ready.

The Tips Simplified

I want to let writers know that though writing is hard, it also can be fun. It doesn’t have to be some overwhelming, daunting task but can be broken down into chunks, such as writing for an hour a week or setting a page or word count goal—basically, just get out the rough draft and worry about editing later.

I also want to inspire writers to start but also to maintain writing, so that it becomes a hobby or even a job. Writing is a craft that can be learned through reading, webinars and classes, but then the writer brings in their magic through their style, voice and use of words. That’s where the fun can come in.

I also give tips on the writing and revision processes, plus offer a few ideas for overcoming writer’s block. I explain the differences among writing in the fiction, nonfiction and poetry genres. And I touch on methods for writing concisely without repetitions and things like word echoes.

If you want to get lucky (in writing, that is), check out the best 50 tips.

* Note that my Lucky 7 blog is posted on 7/21, or a multiple of 3, and that the date of 21 has the numbers 2 and 1, or 2 + 1 = 3. So nerdy, right!

Writing Conferences: Prepare, Pitch and Post

In Uncategorized on March 14, 2021 at 11:00 am

Northern Colorado Writers member Shelley Widhalm holds up her conference book from the NCW Conference in 2017, “Imagination: The Alchemy of Writing.”

Going to a writer’s conference is like getting a micro-MFA but cheaper and faster.

And it’s a way to rise up through the ranks, if just a little.

Conferences, as well as webinars that have gained popularity since the pandemic, give attendees an opportunity to meet with literary agents one-on-one and edge out of the slush pile.

Meeting agents often happens in pitch sessions. Attendees can make quick verbal or written pitches to agents, trying to essentially sell their work in five or 10 minutes or in a few paragraphs. If there is a request, they typically are asked to submit a query letter and/or synopsis and a certain number of pages or chapters.

The personal connection, even if it’s online, gives extra attention to the pitch above that of sending it anonymously. It’s the next best thing to a personal request from an agent or a recommendation from another writer.

Conferences also offer an educational component for writers to grow their craft. Presenters at a conference, whether in-person or virtual, offer trade secrets about writing, editing and publishing. They provide ideas for improving your writing, inspiration and motivation to do that writing, and tips on the ins and outs of self-, small and medium-size presses and of traditional publishing.

I’m particularly excited for the 2021 Northern Colorado Writers Conference that is a mix of a day of in-person workshops on April 24 and a virtual conference April 27 to May 4. There will be sessions catering to a variety of genres including fiction, nonfiction, poetry and screenwriting; networking events; and, my favorite, pitching opportunities to a lineup of six agents.

My attitude about conferences has changed since I attended my first NCW conference in 2014, long before the restrictions of the pandemic and when everything was in person. I sat in on a pitch session and was certain my YA was destined to be a best-seller, but when I didn’t get a little piece of paper inviting me to a second round of pitching, I headed to the bathroom. I went into a stall and cried, because I thought my dreams were over.

They weren’t, of course. I went to NCW’s conferences nearly every year since and continued to pitch, getting requests for partials and fulls. I did three rewrites and resubmits to one agent but eventually got a no. My takeaway is that I love writing and can’t give it up, even if I am not yet traditionally published—I want to be a debut author at a Big House and in the meantime self-published a small reference book in July 2020, “50 Tips for First-Time Authors: Learn the Secrets of Writing for Publication.”

Through my conference dedication, I picked up a few tips on being a conference attendee expert. My hot tips for being cool at the conference include:

  • Plan ahead on which sessions you want to attend; and don’t forget a notebook or laptop to take notes (both for virtual and in-person sessions).
  • Know which genre your work fits in; don’t just say fiction or nonfiction.
  • Prep for pitch sessions: research to find the best fit for your work and check the agent or editor’s websites, social media and other material online to identify what kind of books and writers they represent.
  • Prepare your pitch with a logline and synopsis. If you get a request, ask when and how you should submit your proposal or sample chapters and how best to contact the agent or editor.
  • If you learn that your work isn’t right for the agent or editor, don’t take it personally.
  • Follow up when you receive any kind of positive feedback from agents, writers and others.
  • If you’re attending the in-person session, take photos and post them. Tweet, blog, Facebook and engage in other types of social media to promote your writing and the conference.

Lastly, remember when you invest your money into a writer’s conference, you want to get a good ROI. You’ll get reenergized about the writing and editing processes and hopefully learn something new about you, the writer, and what keeps you going despite the temporary not-yets that you might hear.

Note 1: This blog appears in NCW’s March newsletter, “The Write Stuff.”

Note 2: I provide editing, writing and ghostwriting services and can help you perfect your project from an article or blog series to a short story or novel. I also offer consultations on writing and editing through #ShellsInk at shellsinkservices.com.

What’s up with Self-Improvement Month? (Think Writing/Editing!)

In Editing, Editing Advice, Editing as Part of Writing, Editing Tips, Self-Improvement Month, Writing, Writing Advice, Writing Discipline, Writing Goals, Writing Tips on September 13, 2020 at 11:00 am

Shelley Widhalm of Shell’s Ink Services works on a writing project of writing a short story for Self-Improvement Month. She plans to enter the story in an anthology contest.

It seems there’s a month or day for most everything, so it’s fitting to have a month dedicated just to self-improvement.

With September being Self-Improvement Month, do you have something you’d like to improve in your own life? Is there a hobby you’d like to pick up or a behavior you’d like to engage in to be healthier? Hobbies expand your skill set and teach you something new, while living a healthy lifestyle helps you function better mentally and physically, and exercise is shown to reverse the effects of aging.

Take Steps toward Change

Self-improvement takes change, which can be difficult to do, but staying stagnant can be boring or frustrating. Change is best done in steps, instead of all at once. That way over time, the new activity, behavior or approach becomes routine without requiring a lot of self-convincing to get started or going.

Like with New Year’s resolutions, taking on too much may result in goal dropping by February—gyms are busy in January, but then numbers go down a month later. To start, cut out what’s not working then pick your goal.

If you decide you’re goal is writing or editing (that’s my subject of expertise), here are a few things you can do to turn the goal into a habit (something you do automatically without a lot of forethought).

To start, maybe you need to change your approach to the task and not look at it as something to fear or a chore to dread. I used to dislike editing my own work, but now I see it as a fun project because I get to cut, move things around and flesh out what’s flat or boring. To get to that point, I had to set up my editing routine with a list of goals, timelines, due dates and progress check-ins.

Establish a Routine

To get into a writing (or editing) routine, you can:

  • Create a writing plan to prioritize a set of goals that keep you dedicated and focused. You could write 30 to 60 minutes a day or two times a week, but plan for the same time and day, so that it becomes part of your schedule (and be sure to put it in your planner). Get started writing even if you don’t feel inspired simply by describing something in the room or counting syllables to write a haiku (it’s 5, 7, 5).
  • Break writing into smaller tasks, so that it doesn’t seem so overwhelming. Set up mini-deadlines and items that you can cross off your to-do list. (I like to start my new lists with recent accomplishments that get a big checkmark, so I can remember what I just finished and feel like I’m in the middle of things, not just starting.)
  • Go backward, figuring out a final due date or deadline for a project and coming up with a list of tasks to get there. Write in an estimated completion time for each item on the list. Then schedule the items out, leaving a couple extra leeway days in case of interruptions.

Self-Congratulate

Once you finish your first writing or editing project, have a reward in place, doing something you normally wouldn’t do. Maybe go out for an extra nice dinner or buy a gift for yourself (I tend to pick boxes of fancy chocolate).

If you get through September with your new goals turned into routines or even habits, you can get ready for the long months of winter when you might be stuck inside. I find the cold weather is a good time to buckle down and get serious about my writing projects—during the warmer months, I tend to want to be outside and play. That’s why I’m glad Self-Improvement Month happens in the fall.

Outfitting the Writer’s Tool Kit

In Writing, Writing Advice, Writing Discipline, Writing Goals, Writing Inspiration, Writing Motivation, Writing Processes, Writing Tips on August 30, 2020 at 11:00 am

My writer’s tool kit includes my bookshelf of writing reference books, which help spark the passion engine.

Every writer’s tool kit has different tools, but the most essential is the desire to write. It’s what keeps the passion engine going.

Learning about the elements of writing—storytelling, story structure and word usage—is similar to using an instruction manual to fix a car without the wrenches, pliers and other tools.

Diagnosing the problem, looking at a chart pointing out the parts of the car and reading about the necessary steps doesn’t mean the problem will be solved. The missing element could be the desire to do the work, or the confidence and skill to complete it so the car runs. Even if that passion is there.

The Work of Writing

Writing requires work, and to do that work, there needs to be motivation, discipline and, I believe, a love for some or several aspects of creating or the final creation. Do you love words, individually or how they sound in sentences? Do you love telling stories? Do you love solving story problems? Do you want to make readers feel? Do you want to feel?

Or maybe you like to see your name in print? Or to have finished something?

Writers need spark, just like cars need spark plugs to fire the ignition. For me that spark is a passion for words and getting lost in the story or poem I’m writing, so that what comes out feels like dancing and breathing and living, while I lose awareness of my physical self.

Setting Aside Writing Time

Like cars that need gas in the tank, writers need the space and time to be present for writing. If the tank drops toward the E, writers need to ride out their writer’s block or frustration with the knowledge that these emotions are not permanent.

I find that I get frustrated having so little time for writing.

The result is I save up words, emotions and ideas like money in the bank for when I do get to hang out with my laptop. I let go of my editor and inner critic, plus any negative emotions I have, because now it’s time for my date with QWERTY.

I schedule my writing time, not to specific days but to two to three times a week. I log in the hours I write, so I can see that, like an odometer marking the miles, I am making progress toward a goal. I get excited about every 5,000 words I finish in a novel’s rough draft.

The Writing Fuel

All of this is my fuel for not giving up when I am unpublished with a burning, driving, raging yawp to get my words out into the world. I want my words to be heard, read and even sung.

I don’t necessarily have a map with every step plotted out, but what I do have is a giant imagination, a spark of creativity without which I would fade and a passion for this art I cannot stop loving.

Editing in Rounds (to get the perfect polish!)

In Editing, Editing Advice, Editing as Part of Writing, Editing Tips, Writing, Writing Tips on July 27, 2020 at 11:00 am

Editing adds a final polish to your writing to make what you produce colorful and attractive, giving that flamingo effect!

Editing a novel or a manuscript can’t happen in one round—at least most of the time.

Like with writing, editing is done in layers and it takes time.

Editing can be done in different passes (think of rounds of beer) to identify the missing, the overdone and the boring.

The missing can be missing plot points, missing character identities or a lack of necessary scene description to anchor the character and action.

The overdone can occur through repetition and overwriting, such as creating similar scenes or putting in too much description or detail. For example, two beautiful sentences describing the same thing requires picking or combining but not keeping both.

The boring comes in with too much or too little—there’s too much description, too many main characters (it’s best to keep to one to five to allow for reader tracking and empathy) or too little happening in the action. The story falls flat without rising action, tension and a driving force that compels the character to chase her want (she ends up getting what she needs, not what she wants).

Editing in Rounds

I like to do my editing in four rounds. They are:

Round 1: Edit for Boring: Once I’ve completed my novel and set it aside for at least a month, I read the entire manuscript to see if there are parts that are boring or repeated. I call this my getting-rid-of-the-crap phase.

I dump the cuts in a cuts file and turn the overwritten pretty descriptions into poetry to fill my poem-a-day project that I started in 2015 (that’s another story).

Round 2: Edit for Arc: Once I’ve removed the rough bits, I get down to story. I like to use Nigel Watts’ eight-point narrative arc as a guideline to make sure I’ve included all the crucial elements in storytelling.

Watts outlines the eight points in any story as Stasis, Trigger, The Quest, Surprise, Critical Choice, Climax, Reversal, and Resolution. The main characters experience something that upsets the status quo, sending them on a search to return to normal, but they encounter obstacles along the way. They have to make a critical choice that leads them to the story climax and eventually their return to a fresh stasis, or the new normal.

Round 3: Edit for Pacing: I get down to the business of action and reaction, looking at where there is excitement—sentences are short and to the point to move the story along—and where there needs to be a pause in the narrative with description and character reflection.

I think about each action in the scene and determine if I’m slowing the pace with too much inner thought or character observation or leaving out information, such as stage direction and logistics. I also make sure characters doing one things don’t suddenly do another action without some transition, such as sitting and suddenly running without first getting up from the chair.

Round 4: Edit for Grammar: I polish the manuscript by looking at grammar, mechanics, punctuation, spelling and syntax (how words are put together). I get rid of annoying word habits—for me, my characters do a lot of looking, gazing, nodding and smiling (I’m glad they don’t frown though).

Final Editing

And lastly, I edit every time I get a rejection from a literary agent or feedback from my writers group. I keep editing until I get a “yes,” though it takes hours and hours of work.

Once I do my own editing, I hire an editor to give my work that final polish and to catch anything I missed. This step is particularly important for self-publishing to make sure the copy is clean and free of error, because too many errors in any of the rounds cause readers to doubt the quality of the work. I prefer the flamingo effect, beautiful, striking and eye-catching work!


														

A Handy (and Fun!) Reference Book for Writing and Editing

In Uncategorized on July 5, 2020 at 11:00 am

Shelley Widhalm of Shell’s Ink Services poses with the proof of her book, “50 Tips for First-Time Authors.”

Becoming pro at writing takes time and experience, but for those gaps in knowledge, it’s great to have a bookshelf (virtual or real) of reference books.

I consolidated many of the writing tricks and tips I learned over the years in my new release, “50 Tips for First-Time Authors: Learn the Secrets of Writing for Publication.” The book comes out in Kindle and print on Lucky 7/7, or July 7, 2020.

From the Reviewers

I sought reviews for the book and got some great responses, including one from a reader who said the tips “are clear, compelling and practical.” “They truly provide a map to move steadily forward in the writing journey,” the reader said, adding that the journey also can be discouraging.

I can attest to that discouragement. I’m trying to get traditionally published and have had some interest but not a final yes, while self-publishing requires the same amount of time, dedication and patience. There is as large a learning curve as there is to learning how to write and edit in a clear, crisp and compelling style that gets reader buy-in and builds a fan base.

Another reviewer said, “In this concise and practical book, this successful writer uses her insight and skill to encourage, support and guide fellow writers through their creative process.”

And Now for the Tips

In nine quick-to-read chapters, I offer tips for getting started writing, what’s involved in the writing process, the difference between writing fiction and nonfiction, and editing best practices, plus ways to avoid the dreaded writer’s block. I wrap up with a dozen reasons for loving writing.

The final chapter, “Loving Writing (Because It’s Essential!),” is my favorite. An excerpt from the chapter sums up why writing is a great practice.

It’s a way to be whoever you want to be and do whatever you want to do, going places, and doing things you might not do otherwise.

And, most importantly, it’s interesting to find out what you created after spending a few minutes or hours on a novel scene, short story, or essay. It’s the ultimate process of discovery.

To learn about these and other tips and find out about the essentials to writing and editing, visit Amazon to get a print or Kindle version of 50 Tips for First-Time Authors.

Thanks for checking out my favorite tips from the hundreds I’ve learned and collected over the years!

Author Website Gets a ‘Wardrobe Makeover’

In Uncategorized on June 29, 2020 at 11:00 am

Every so often, websites need an update, or viewers will think they are a little sleepy and outdated!

Websites are like wardrobes—they need to be changed every so often to be fashionable and up-to-date.

That’s what I did with my author website that describes my writing projects and author story. I tossed out the old—especially the photos of younger albeit heavier me before I started my daily one-hour running and weight-lifting regimen—and brought in the new. I have fewer photos, fewer tabs and a whole new look.

Originally, I created my website in 2010 when I read a Writer’s Digest article stating that aspiring authors should have a platform that includes a blog and a website, so I started both.

Out with the Old, In with the New …

My first website had a banner with a cutout photo of me up top and the tabs on the side—an outdated look, though everything was in shades of blue, even my outfit, which was kind of nice. The tabs included About Me, which had three sub-tabs of Profile, Photos and Questions (an old version of FAQs), News and Writing, also with sub-tabs, and my Blog. Very unwieldy and a bit busy.

The new website is neater and cleaner with three of my top book projects featured on the home page and six tabs for the About Me, Publications, Readings, FAQs, Blog and Contact Me pages.

Blog Relaunch

The Blog tab sends visitors to the Shell’s Writing Ink blog I started in June 2010, that of https://shelleywidhalm.wordpress.com. I will continue in a similar vein with my new and improved blog, offering fast and fun writing and editing tips and glimpses into the life of a writer. But what will be different is the offering of samples of my novels, short stories and poetry. That way visitors can delve into my writing style and see what kind of characters, settings and storylines I like to create.

As I did in the past, I will aim to blog on a weekly basis, though I do skip here and there.

Honestly, blogging sometimes feels like a chore—maybe because writing isn’t always magical and easy. But I love sharing what I’ve learned from attending writing workshops, reading writers magazines, being part of writers groups and engaging in conversations about writing.

Newsletter Addition

I also will encourage visitors to join my newsletter list for even more writing and editing tips.

Why share? Because it’s good to do (and something we learned in kindergarten), and writing about writing is a way of self-teaching. It’s a way to see what fits, what works and what needs to go—be it recycled, reused or repurposed. Writing is a way to get in all the colors, be fashionable and try out the new trends.

In other words, writing is … yep, fun!

50 Tips for Writing and Editing (plus, a book for sale!)

In Editing Advice, Editing Tips, Writer's Block, Writing, Writing Advice, Writing Discipline, Writing Goals, Writing Motivation, Writing Tips on June 22, 2020 at 11:00 am

The image appears on the cover of the soon-to-be-released “50 Tips for First-Time Authors.

Writing has a bit of mystique to it, since it’s something we all do, but it also has what I like to call the Gold Star Effect.

Writing is essential to work, life and business, but …

What Exactly is Good Writing?

Good writing tells a story, inspires change and is layered in purpose and in meaning, causing readers to ponder, think and act.

Good writing is structurally sound with clear, concise content and, if fiction, a fully fleshed-out story.

Good writing also looks impeccable on the page, free of errors in grammar, mechanics, syntax, punctuation and spelling.

But to get that place of good writing, or the Gold Star Effect, work is involved, along with discipline, motivation, practice and, of course, revision.

I’ve been writing professionally for more than 20 years, first as a journalist, then as a freelance writer and editor, but also as an aspiring author. I have plans to self-publish two novels and am trying to get agents for two other novels. I also have two I shelved, because they just didn’t work out.

50 Tips for First-Time Authors

Through all of this writing work and experience, I’ve gathered my top tips for writing, editing and doing the work of both.

I share my tips in “50 Tips for First-Time Authors: Learn the Secrets of Writing for Publication,” which will be published on Kindle and in print on Lucky 7/7, or July 7, 2020.

In my booklet, I cover tips for getting started writing, what’s involved in the writing process, the difference between writing fiction and nonfiction, and editing best practices, plus ways to avoid the dreaded writer’s block. I wrap up with a dozen reasons for loving writing.

Here’s an excerpt from the book:

A writing list is a great way to get motivated and stay on task, turning a desire to write into the action of writing.

It provides a few rules to live by that make writing a routine and, over time, a habit without too much planning, thinking or agonizing about it.

It’s a way to show up for the writing, finding that once you get started, you have something to say, a short story to write in a sitting or two, or descriptions and storylines to add to a work in progress.

To find even more tips, visit Amazon for a pre-order to have the book ready to go on Lucky 7/7.

Thanks for checking out years of tips made concise in nine chapters. These tips have the Gold Star Effect in that they rose to the top from the hundreds of tips I’ve learned and collected!

(Note: I must admit the idea of self-publishing seemed intimidating, so I attended webinars, workshops and seminars and read two books on the subject. Two particularly useful tools are Gundi Gabrielle’s “Kindle Bestseller Publishing: Publish a Bestseller in the Next 30 Days!!” and Richard N. Williams’ “Self Publish Your Novel Made Easy.”)

Achieving Work-Life Balance in Writing (especially during a crisis)

In Work-Life Balance, Writing, Writing Advice, Writing Goals, Writing Spaces, Writing Spots, Writing Tips on May 17, 2020 at 7:00 am

 

05-2020 WorkLifeBalance

Shelley Widhalm of Shell’s Ink Services works at home on the couch using a portable lap desk to add variety to her stuck-at-home approach to work-life balance.

During the pandemic crisis, are you stuck indoors without a lot of variety to your office space? Did you use to enjoy mixing working at home with your other favorite writing places?

I don’t like sitting, and I don’t like being in front of a computer—at least for long periods of time. I also don’t like the same sitting spot for hours on end.

So I came up with a COVID desk survival plan. I had to since I write for a living, and I write for fun with the goal to make the writing I want to do—writing novels—full time. It’s a lot of writing, as a result, but I try to balance it with daily exercise—running and lifting weights—and doing social things (or, I used to, now that social time is on Zoom).

Work-Life Writing Balance

How do you achieve balance when you work life and your other life both involve computers?

  • First of all, find several writing spots in the house, such as the desk with the hopefully ergonomic chair, plus the couch with a portable lap desk. (I got mine at Barnes & Noble back in the day when you could physically go into stores.)
  • Set aside certain times for your writing routine, but don’t guilt yourself if you don’t write. I aim for three one-hour sessions a week—but during COVID, I’ve had time to write or edit about 10 hours a week. (I’ve gained extra time from not driving and social distancing).
  • Vary where you write, such as the office, living room and kitchen and find something stimulating in that environment to think about or absorb—such as the grinding of the coffee beans or the way the air feels as time shifts from high noon into the afternoon. (You have to use some imagination here, since we’re all stuck inside, but I do have the option of going out on my patio, and I pretend it’s the park!)
  • Take breaks every few minutes to stretch, or take a mini-walk for a mind refresher. Join a writers group, such as Northern Colorado Writers, and join in on the Zoom tea chats or coffee breaks to get that actual break.
  • Make sure you have free time to do whatever you want that gets you away from the routine, particularly if it doesn’t involve writing.
  • Try writing in a notebook if computers are your normal tool, or vice versa. The switch may cause you to see and write differently—handwriting slows you down, while typing causes you to lose the pen-hand connection and get lost in the writer’s world.
  • Find a new interest or hobby to learn something new or see things from a new perspective.
  • Congratulate yourself when you write when you don’t feel like it. Treat it like a job, even if you’re not working because of the shutdown.

Fair Play in Writing

And remember, it may not be so much of a balance but a matter of sharing the space of work with the space of the rest of life. I like to call it work-life fair play.