Category Archives: writing helps

That Feeling of Relief

So, the feeling of relief…it is pretty amazing, right? Take the following examples:

  • Sitting down with a gaming controller after a long day.
  • Taking off shin guards after a soccer game.
  • An ice-cold drink of water after mowing the lawn on a 100+ degree day.
  • Pulling a foot out of one of those tight ski boots after a long day on the slope (this could also be replaced with a too-tight bicycle cleat after a long ride).
  • That first plate from your favorite buffet after a day of fasting in eager anticipation.

imageI could go on, but hopefully you see where I’m going with this. As I thought about what I wanted to write for this post, I couldn’t help but consider my own current mindset. You see, I just finished Ragesong: Alliance, and that beautiful ‘I can finally sit back for a minute’ feeling hit. It was a huge relief.

With my current schedule, I am usually able to churn out one or two books a year. It isn’t a lot, I know. I learned a long time ago that failure to prioritize can lead to some pretty hairy situations, however, and it is always worth avoiding those. In the example of my writing, I found a schedule that works for me…more or less.

So, here I sit, excited for tonight. After the kids go to bed, I can relax and unwind in the best way possible. That’s right! I’m talking about video
games (where did your mind go, people??). There is nothing better than sitting down for a nice binge session on video games when you feel you completely deserve it. Alliance is in the hands of my editor and I get to dust my hands off and wait until it comes back.

Here’s the thing. For the past several months I have been struggling to stay on target with Alliance. I would find things to occupy my time that kept me from writing in the evenings. Stupid things, like: video games, Facebook, YouTube, Netflix, etc… In short, I was finding it extremely difficult to stay focused. The downside (and upside) was that I had readers hitting me up to know what was going to happen next. In all sincerity, I love it when this happens because it shows that a reader is invested and they care. It is extremely motivating. So, like any good procrastinator, I grounded myself. I would not allow myself to enjoy in any late night gaming sessions until after I finished.

Oh boy, it was grueling at times! The only use my poor ps4 received for the last several months was when I would watch a movie with my kids. It was tough, but since I wanted to play, I was able to focus more and I was able to finish the book. I will say, that I can’t remember enjoying a gaming session quite as much as the one I had the night I sent Alliance to my editor. It was SO great!

At first, I simply enjoyed the night for what it was. Kids in bed, the wife NES_controllerwatching T.V. in the other room and me, sitting on the couch with a controller in hand watching the opening cut scenes for MGS5. Now, as I sit back and consider that euphoric feeling, I realize it wasn’t just the gaming. It was the fact that I could sit down and play without a shred of guilt because I had accomplished something I was proud of. I knew that in that moment, there was nothing more I could do for my book, and I really felt I had earned that time.

Upon coming to that conclusion, I tried to think about what I can do to experience it again. Because, honestly, there is nothing quite as good as a guilt-free evening of doing something you love without the nagging feeling that you should be doing something else. So, my question to myself was, ‘what can I do to experience it again?’ The answer of course comes by way of lists. Why? Because…lists.

  1. Set worthwhile goals – Half of the reason I enjoyed the reward as much as I did was because I felt like I had accomplished something truly worthwhile.
  2. Set reasonable expectations – I was already through with a good portion of the book. I knew that my goal obtainable. I was not setting myself up for failure by trying to do too much.
  3. Find what works – Withholding something enjoyable not only gave me motivation, but I also found that I enjoyed it all the more after taking time away. ‘Absence doth make the heart grow fonder.’ There’s a lot of truth to that.
  4. Enjoy the reward – Give yourself time to enjoy the fruits. Don’t rush on to the next project so fast that you can’t sit back and take joy in what you have done.

In life, we do a lot of things in life that aren’t easy. I found that occasionally those tasks can become more manageable when we are properly motivated. Not to mention, the end result can make a fun experience even more incredible. I’d love to keep writing…but I’ve got games to catch up on before the PlayStation Holiday rush hits. So, until next time, folks!


J.R. Simmons
– Author of the Ragesong Saga

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000038_00072]

Lessons learned from my flat iron — No time like the present

cartoon-hair-on-fireI have thin hair. The kind that requires a short funeral service every morning as I mourn over the strands that have fallen out from brushing. When flat irons became all the rage, I made sure to buy the most expensive brand that promised not to damage my precious locks. I dumped a good $150 into it, so I was annoyed a few months back when I noticed the flat iron’s charging light never stopped blinking.

I knew something was wrong, but I was in a hurry and so I kept using it . . . until a week later when I took a good hard look at my hair in the mirror and thought, “Why is my hair so frizzy?”

It was burned. Irrevocable hair damage. My hairdresser said it resembled cotton candy. (Ouch, that hurt!) She cut off a lot, trying to “lessen” the damage. In the meantime I learned an important lesson.

It’s much better to take some time now to fix something rather than to continue along, assuming all will be well.

boy writingIf you know a tween who struggles with writing, the time to help him or her through this issue is NOW, especially as school begins anew. The following are five suggestions taken from the National Council Teachers of English website to encourage writing in children. (Link to the full article.)

  1. Go places and see things with your child, then talk about what has been seen, heard, smelled, tasted, touched. The basis of good writing is good “talking.”
  2. Talk through their ideas with your tween. Help them discover what they want to say.
  3. Make sure your tween has a “place” of her/his own to write. Any flat surface with elbow room, a comfortable chair, and a good light will do.
  4. Share letters and emails from friends and relatives. (You may need to urge relatives and friends to write notes and letters to the child, no matter how brief. Grandparents can be very helpful here. Writing is especially rewarding when the child gets a response.
  5. Think of unique ways a child can be involved in writing. For example, helping with grocery lists, adding notes at the end of parents’ letters, sending holiday and birthday cards, taking down telephone messages, writing notes to friends, helping plan trips by writing for information, drafting notes to school for parental signature, etc. Each attempt at writing, no matter how small, is important and builds confidence.

Above view of a girl geek . She is using her laptop and looking at the camera.  [url=http://www.istockphoto.com/search/lightbox/9786682][img]http://dl.dropbox.com/u/40117171/children5.jpg[/img][/url]

Writers-Get & Stay Inspired!

book-Image courtesy of digitalart at FreeDigitalPhotos.net(image courtesy of digitalart at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

WRITERS: GET & STAY INSPIRED!

Writers write, obviously, and most of the time we do it with passion, excitement, and a love for our craft. But there are times when we need a little extra inspiration . . .

Useful ways writers can accomplish this:

JOURNALING. Journaling our thoughts and feelings is a great way to cleanse the mind and give our ideas a clearer “space” to flow. Aside from personal topics, we can journal specifically about our writing, what we’re struggling with in our manuscripts, what we’re researching, ideas we have but aren’t sure about, any fears we have about our writing (maybe we’re questioning the topics we’ve chosen or our craft skills), certain obstacles we believe might be slowing our progress, things in our lives or writing careers we’d like to see changed, and on and on . . . Journaling is a great method to clear our heads, ease our hearts, and allow for new paths of clarity to show up, so that our focus becomes fine-tuned once again.

ENGAGE IN OTHER TYPES OF ARTISTIC EXPRESSION. Drawing, painting, sculpting, scrap-booking—really anything that engages our creativity in a visual way—helps awaken our muses. Some may want to create art inspired by something they are writing about specifically, such as a character or setting. Some may want total freedom to create whatever comes to mind. Either way is fine, as is any style of artistic expression. Even doodling works wonders to keep our fingers moving while our minds are allowed to relax and find new inspiration.

TALK IT OUT. Bantering, brainstorming, talking out our story ideas in a free-style way with a writing buddy or two can lead us to solutions we might not otherwise have found. The trick is not to get too serious (at first), letting anything/everything flow freely, so that we can eventually arrive at the real “heart” of our projects with a new/deeper outlook. As an alternative to working with a buddy, writers can also go solo by using voice recorders (voice recorder apps work great) to talk things out on their own until those golden ideas click into place. I do this while taking a walk or driving (nowadays nobody ever thinks you’re talking to yourself).

WATCH A MOVIE. Structure-wise, movies and books share many of the same rules. For extra insight, watch a movie in the same genre in which you write. Pay attention to when and how the story-structure points occur (inciting incident, first plot point, midpoint, climax, etc.), observe the settings shown, the focus of the camera on particular objects, listen carefully to dialogue between characters for uniqueness or interesting styles of banter. Writers can learn a lot from cinematic art, and it’s definitely a fun way to get inspired.

READ. Perhaps the most effective way to re-charge ourselves as writers is to read. Read books in the genres you love—the ones that get you excited—no matter if they match the genres you write in or not. The point is to inspire and re-ignite your passion for the written word. Reading helps us stay in the world of “story” while also helping us to relax. It allows us writers to stop focusing so hard on our own manuscripts, and at the same time, fills us with motivation that we can take back to our writing. Whenever anyone asks me what one thing I would suggest for writer’s block, my answer is always: READ!

Want more tips? Check out my board over on Pinterest with tons of articles, quotes, pictures, etc. to help Writers-Get & Stay Inspired!

 

head shot image extra crop colorChristina Mercer is an award-winning author of fiction for children and young adults. She is also a once-upon-a-time CPA and the author of Bean Counting for Authors. Christina enjoys life in the foothills of Northern California with her husband and sons, a pack of large dogs, and about 100,000 honeybees.  WebSite | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest

 

 

Use your Interjections!

If you’re an American Gen X-er who’d been a zealous viewer of Saturday morning cartoons, most likely when you hear the word “Interjection” you will spontaneously break into song: “When Reginald was home with the flu, uh-huh-huh, The doctor knew just what to do-hoo…” (and experience a powerful hankering for Ovaltine. What’s up with that???).

Back in the day (the phrase my kids use when referring to that fuzzy period of my life Pre-Them), “Interjections” were an earworm that haunted me day and night. Who would’ve thunk they were actually useful in writing? Interjections convey strong emotion in cute, little, power-packed morsels. Ooh, pff, gah, bah, argh, hmphmwahaha — awwwww, huh?

So be fashionably pithy. Use your Interjections! (Yes, I also picture a wagging finger here.)

And, Gen Z-ers, if you hear your mother make a phlegmy noise that sorta sounds like “ahem,” it’s time to look up from whatever electronic device you’re using and pay attention. It’ll just get ugly from that point on.

Below are two great lists of Interjections. Tuck them away. They will come in handy.

100 Mostly Small But Expressive Interjections

Dictionary of Interjections

For those who must satisfy “The Earworm” I’ve awakened or who are looking for a new non-Taylor Swift ditty that will endlessly loop through your head >>> School House Rock! Interjections (Warning: No Auto-tune)

Elise Stokes, author of the Cassidy Jones Adventures series

Elise Stokes lives with her husband and four children. She was an elementary school teacher before becoming a full-time mom. With a daughter in middle school and two in high school, Elise’s understanding of the challenges facing girls in that age range inspired her to create a series that will motivate girls to value individualism, courage, integrity, and intelligence. The stories in Cassidy Jones Adventures are fun and relatable, and a bit edgy without taking the reader uncomfortably out of bounds. Cassidy Jones and the Secret Formula, Cassidy Jones and Vulcan’s Gift, Cassidy Jones and the Seventh Attendant, and Cassidy Jones and the Luminous are the first four books in the series.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Google Plus | Goodreads

When Authors Mean Business!

BeanCountingECoverAuthoring books is amazingly fun and creative and never, EVER dull . . . However, along with all that imaginative wonderment, Authors come closer to becoming mini-accountants than they realize. Why? Because once anyone becomes an official business owner, he/she crosses into the realm of accounting and taxes.

Oh, the horrors of it, right? But never fear!

When Authors Mean Business, they have propelled themselves from merely writing for “fun” to reaping well-earned monetary rewards. AND THAT IS A GOOD THING, RIGHT? Authors are not only wand-waving story weavers, but also real-world professionals running businesses that earn money. And, yes, along with that comes accounting and taxes. If that causes some of you Authors out there to squirm, just remind yourselves that it’s a sign of monetary success if your books are earning ENOUGH profits to generate said taxes. And you don’t have to figure it all out on your own!

In order to help fellow creatives with all of this business and accounting stuff, I offer a handy little guide with some important must-knows of accounting, taxation, budgeting, and planning for the future. Learn the differences between a hobby and a business; get a handle on different business structures; learn about proper bookkeeping, sales tax, common and complex tax deductions, retirement options and more!

BEAN COUNTING FOR AUTHORS-Helping Writers & Creative Business Owners Grasp Accounting & Taxes

NOW AVAILABLE!!

Counting each and every “Bean” earned may not be the idea of fun and adventure for most, but having lots of beans in the bank is a pretty great way for Authors to keep on doing what they do love most—WRITING BOOKS! And understanding some important business and financial basics is a big step toward making that happen.

head shot image extra crop colorOnce-upon-a-time, Christina Mercer worked as a CPA. Though she retired that formal hat, you can still find numbers buzzing around her head. She is also an award-winning author of fiction for children and young adults. She currently resides in Northern California enjoying life with her husband, sons, pack of large dogs, and about 100,000 honeybees.  WebSite | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest