Wednesday, September 06, 2017

The “Real Life” Guide to Writing

By Chris Mentzer, @Chris_Mentzer

Part of the How They Do It Series (Special September Guest Event)

Chris Mentzer’s first publication, The Askinar Towers trilogy was released as e-books in 2014. Since then he has published four short stories, and a blog-inspired novel featuring additional characters from the towers trilogy.

Chris lives in the Valley of the Sun and is currently employed in the retail industry working as a personal shopper. In his spare time, when not writing or stalking the social media streams; Chris watches TV, reads other indie authors, and/or sleeps.

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Take it away Chris...

When you begin a new writing project you get really excited for it. You have your writing nook set up, snacks on standby, coffee (or tea) brewed, and all of your reference materials within reach. And just as you begin the first sentence, there is a knock on your door. You open it to find Real Life standing there and he has a whole box of problems for you to delay your writing

I don’t have time!

One of the main complaints that people have in regards to wanting to write is that they don’t have time. Even those who do have time usually find other things to do instead of writing. You get that sudden urge to clean or make that special supper, or watch that new movie that’s just come out. You’ll do anything to avoid the actual writing part and then complain you don’t have time.

Instead of saying,“you don’t have time,” what you need to do is FIND the time. To help you find time to write: a) list the things you do every day b) Write down when you do them and, c) Go back and eliminate the excess stuff. For example, if you check your e-mail four or five times a day, cut it down to twice a day;once in the morning and once at evening. Another idea is to get up thirty minutes earlier or stay up thirty minutes later and use that time to write. Even if you only get 500 words written, that’s more to your bottom line than before.

If you have a special supper in mind or a new movie to watch, save it as a reward for your writing goals. When you hit a milestone in your writing, say 25,000 words, take some time out to prepare that special meal you recently read about. Save the movie until you reach the halfway mark of your writing project or, better still, when you complete your project. That way you feel a great accomplishment and you can reward yourself.

The Family and The Job

Juggling family time, work time, and writing time is tough and you know that when you want some “alone time”, in the house, that’s when everyone in the household needs you attention. Instead of alienating your family, bring them on board with the project. They don’t necessarily have to participate in your writing (like read what you’ve written) but if you can agree on boundaries for your writing time then it makes life easier.

Another suggestion is do some writing on your lunch hour at work. Most places give you an hour for lunch. On days that you want to write, bring your lunch with you and try to eat it within 20 minutes and then spend the remaining time writing. You can always arrive at work at little early and get in a couple hundred words before your shift starts or stay a little after you clock out and write some more.

If you usually eat with coworkers, let them know in advance that you plan to use some of the time to write and that you don’t want to be bothered. They may not understand at first but you can always include them in the creative process by asking them questions like: “What’s a good first name for a female who rides horses?” Or “Give me a street name that sounds like a rundown neighborhood.” Even if you don’t use any of their suggestions, they’ll feel like they contributed to your project.

The same can be done at home. Set aside an hour to write and assure your family that you are not ignoring them when you are writing. Talk about your story at the dinner table and get them family’s input much in the same way that you did at work. Character names, style of clothing, pets they might own, etc. This will help them feel involved.

Above all, make sure your spouse is on board with your writing and is willing to run interference for you in regards to the kids’ needs while you’re in writing mode. If you’re a single parent, it may be a little tougher but if Auntie Beth lives nearby, she can take the kids off your hands for an hour or two while you write.

Meetings and Appointments

We don’t always have control of our time when it comes to doctor visits whether it’s a checkup or a weekly counselor’s session. However, you can try to schedule these appointments as close together as possible and get them out of the way A.S.A.P.

When an appointment is coming up, either get up early and write or stay up late and writing. That way if you don’t make it back to your writing because of the appointment, you’ll still have words written down for that day. Not every appointment will eat up much time but if little Johnny is rushed to the hospital from the school with a broken arm, you may find that a few days of writing will disappear while you tend to this emergency.

I’m not telling to ignore your family or obligations when it comes to these sudden changes, but stay ahead of your word count goal for any eventuality. And if you are a church-goer do not ignore your responsibilities for the purpose of writing. Your congregation might understand but God won’t. As I mentioned before, get up 30 minutes earlier and get some writing in before the rest of the house gets up.

Family Meals

If you are the cook in the household, you may find it difficult to do the evening meals for the family. Don’t just shove the yellow pages at your family and tell them to, “Figure it out for yourselves.” Pizza, on occasion, is nice but no one wants takeout every night of the week for an entire month.

One of the ideas that you can do is cook several meals in advance and then freeze them. This way all you have to do is thaw and reheat to cut down preparation time so you can write. This is a great way to make sure your family not only gets enough to eat but eats healthier than drive-thru.

If your spouse does most of the cooking you’re further ahead than most. If not, encourage them to do more cooking during the days that you want to write. Have the kids help as well and get them interested in what is involved in meal making.

Whatever you do, do not totally neglect your family while you’re writing. Certain situations will arise that will require your attention and tear you away from writing. But make sure you spend some time with them; eat meals with them, ask them about their day, and celebrate each milestone that you cross.

What about you? What are your secrets to dealing with everyday life and writing? Share any hints or tips of what worked and what didn’t. I’m looking forward to hearing your comments.

Happy Adventuring!


About Nexus of the Worlds (The Askinar Towers Book 1)

Sara’s tenth birthday was concluded by a visit from the family friend known only as The Professor. He gives Sara a special key that starts her on a great adventure! Along with her sister, Erika, she gains access to a world dominated by four towers.

Their goal is to find a way back home and that means finding the Fifth Tower, which is considered a legend. Along the way they join up with a detective from 1935 New York, a female secret agent from 1969 Washington D.C., and a King’s Champion. Together they encounter obstacles that delay their travels.

But someone else is ever present watching the progress of the girls and their friends. A black robed figure trails behind with an agenda of some sort. Does it want the key or the girls?

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