“When your story is ready for rewrite, cut it to the bone. Get rid of every ounce of excess fat. This is going to hurt; revising a story down to the bare essentials is always a little like murdering children, but it must be done.” ~ Stephen King
As anyone who reads this blog knows, I am a planner. I have vacations planned months, sometimes years, in advance. When our family decides on a Disney World trip or a cruise to Alaska, it is usually with months of planning.
It is odd that this year begins, and I don’t have definite plans for a family vacation. Last year at this time, I knew we would go to Albuquerque in March, Bastrop in June and an Alaska cruise in August. This year, I have ideas, but nothing has been set.
My husband owns his own law firm. And it sometimes is hard for him to get time away. Honestly, I think since he is the boss he should be able to take time off, but he sees it as more of pain to work extra hours to take a vacation that most likely he didn’t want to go on in the first place. He doesn’t love cruises like the kids and I do as he doesn’t like being without access to email (which is why we paid for the cruise internet plan).
So, to give him a break from planning a week-long vacation, I am thinking this year we plan a few weekend trips. This would mean he would only miss one day – maybe two days – of work and they would be spread out throughout the year. At least in my mind, it sounds like a better deal for him. Of course, his answer was why don’t we only do one weekend trip. Ah…no.
Here is what I am thinking about for this year.
April – The kids have a three-day weekend at the end of April. (All San Antonio schools close for the Battle of Flowers parade which is part of Fiesta, a 10 day festival held every spring.) In the past, my husband and I have used this time for us to take a couple’s vacation but one year, we did take the kids to Dallas. My thought is we again go to Dallas – or more specifically to the Great Wolf Lodge in Grapevine, Texas. Great Wolf Lodge is a indoor water park that is only open to people that stay at their lodge.
I have always wanted to go to the Great Wolf Lodge and would like to go before the kids get too much older. I think this date would be good as it shouldn’t be as crowded at this time since most kids are in school.
June – Usually we go to wherever my husband’s attorney conference is being held – Bastrop or South Padre Island. He works and we play. But this year it is here in San Antonio. Now while we may go stay on the Riverwalk for an evening, it isn’t the same thing as going somewhere that has a beach or other outdoor activities. The kids love the beach. And since we didn’t get there last year, I am thinking we should head to South Padre Island for a weekend. Of course, working this into my husband’s schedule may be challenging and we can always change the date to July or August if necessary.
I am also in the beginning discussions with my parents about maybe going some where with them for a few days. This would be without my husband. Just as we left him here when we went to visit my brother in Albuquerque, I think another trip might be fun. My parents haven’t been to Corpus Christi which is only a few hours’ drive away. And this trip wouldn’t have to be a weekend trip though it will have to wait until summer break.
September – In 2017, my parents rented a cabin at the lake. We went up on Friday and stayed to Sunday. It was great. The place wasn’t crowded, and the weather was still nice enough for the kids to play in the lake. We had smores, campfires, and got to see plenty of deer. The kids are hoping we get to go it again. The good news for my husband would be that he would only miss half a day of work. Of course this trip all depends on my parents since the cabin can only be rented by military or retired military personnel.
And that pretty much wraps up our trips. It would be tops 3 1/2 days off for my husband but we would still get to do some fun activities.
It is a New Year. It is the time that many people make resolutions to improve their lives. I thought this might be a good time to list some resolutions that might appeal to writers.
1.) Start (or Finish) your novel – Have you been kicking around the idea for a novel? Or maybe you have already begun one but haven’t finished it up. This is the year to get motivated and start writing. (For tips on starting a novel, click here. And for tips on dealing with writer’s block, click here.)
2.) Stay on task – Do e-mails and Facebook distract you from working? Or maybe you get caught up in marketing your books? Can you find any reason to procrastinate? Make this the year that you learn to stay on task. Make your resolution specific. Don’t just say you will “procrastinate less.” Resolve to set a timer for 20 minutes and work until the timer stops. Or vow to write for an hour BEFORE you do any marketing or checking of email.
3.) Find time to write – Maybe distractions such as Facebook and e-mail aren’t your problem. Perhaps it is the fact that you are working a full-time job, raising a family, doing charity work, volunteering at your kids’ school, taking care of your elderly parents or a host of other responsibilities we all take on as adults. It often becomes hard to find time to dedicate to writing, but most of us can easily carve out 30 minutes to an hour for writing. Get up earlier or dedicate the time after the kids are in bed for writing. Even a few minutes here and there can add up.
4.) Set a realistic writing goal – To help you stay on task or find time to write, you may want to set a writing goal. You might set an amount of time you want to write or set a number of words to write per day or week. Check out how to set realistic writing goals and stick with them!
5.) Become a better writer – You are never too old to learn something new. Even if you have several published books under your belt, there is always something new you can learn. Take the time to read a blog or a book on writing. Heck, just take the time to READ! The more you read, the more different styles and genres you read, the better your own writing will be. You can set a reading goal.
6.) Increase your marketing – Sometimes promoting your novel (and yourself) is hard. You would rather be writing…or even editing than figuring out how to market your book. Now is the time to plan your Facebook page, blog or web page or to set up a marketing campaign. Again, be specific. You want to post twice a week, send out 10 tweets or appear on 4 blogs a month or whatever you think will help your marketing plan.
So, whatever your writing resolutions or goals, just make them simple and realistic. And most importantly, write them down and keep them posted above your computer so you follow through! Happy New Year everyone, and may 2019 be an awesome year for you and your writing!
Writing is an exploration. You start with nothing and learn as you go. ~ E.L. Doctorow
Ah the new year…a time when people make New Year’s Resolutions…and then forget them a few weeks later.
It is easy to want to start off the New Year “right.” And oh, there are certainly some changes that I would love to make to my life, but it is that knowledge that most New Year Resolutions fail that makes me not want to make any.
Lose Weight/Eat Healthier – Many, many people would like to lose a few pounds (or maybe a lot of pounds). If you aren’t wanting to lose weight, you may be one of those who wants to change our diet to a healthier one.
Exercise More – Life is busy. For some of us, finding time to exercise and improve strength and stamina is hard. Gym memberships soar at this time of year.
Get Organized – No matter how organized I think I am, there is always something that needs organizing or cleaned up in the house. If you are looking for a good plan to get your home organized, check out 52 Weeks to an Organized Home. https://www.home-storage-solutions-101.com/organized-home.html
Stop (drinking, smoking, yelling at the kids)/Start (reading, learning a new hobby, making friends, smiling more) – Who doesn’t have something they would either like to stop doing or maybe start doing?
Save Money/Reduce Debt – Everyone should have some money socked away for emergencies. Or perhaps you want to save up for a vacation or other larger purchase or even begin putting money away for your kids’ college or your retirement. Or you can simply want to pay off those school loans and credit card bills.
According to a quick internet search, about 45% of Americans will make one (or more) resolutions this New Year. But often these resolutions don’t last.
- Past the first week: 75%
- Past 2 weeks: 71%
- Past one month: 64%
- After 6 months: 46%
Tips for Making your Resolution Last
For those of you who made a New Year’s resolution, here are few tips to help you achieve them:
- Make only 1 resolution
- Be specific (Don’t say lose weight, have a set amount as our goal)
- Be honest with your goals (Don’t set yourself up for failure with an unreachable goal or base the goal on someone else’s goals)
- Break your goal into a series of time-based steps
- Make your plans and progress concrete by writing it down
- Tell your friends and family what you are aiming for
- Regularly remind yourself of the benefits
- Give yourself small rewards for achieving each step
- Expect small set-backs, and don’t make these a reason to give up altogether
So, did you take the plunge and make a New Year’s Resolution? If so, go ahead and share it in the comments. (That counts as writing it down!) As for me, I want to lose 10 lbs. Now to break that down into achievable steps.
Since this is the beginning of the year, I thought I would recap some of my better publishing, marketing and writing posts from 2018.
Novel Writing – Endings and Epilogues
Every story must end. At some point after your story’s climax, your characters will return to their regular lives. Before that there may be some fallout from the climax as the consequences of your character’s choices are played out.
But knowing exactly where to stop your story and what you want the last words to be are not always easy. Here are some tips to ending your novel. (To read more, click here.)
Avoiding Plot and Character Cliches
A cliché is anything that is overdone and overused. Clichés pop up all the time in movies and books. When you look at the list of cliched plots and characters, you may wonder if it is even possible to come up with something new, something original. Rest assured; It may not be easy, but it can be done. (For more on cliches, click here.)
Omitting unnecessary words in your novel
As you work on tightening your writing, you need to remove unnecessary word and delete or change words that you might use too often. Often you don’t even realize you are using these words. (To learn more about unnecessary words, click here.)
Your Second Draft and Beyond
Now every author approaches their second draft different. For me, this is a time to check the consistency and where I can amend the story either by trimming it, fleshing it out or developing subplots.
To do this, I cannot stop on every page to fix and worry over every word. That will come later. To begin, I need to read through the first draft without stopping to correct every flaw. Yes, I may add a missing word or fix a spelling error, but I try not to get into re-writing at this stage. I want to read it straight through first. (To read more, click here.)
Beta Reader, Proofreaders and Copy Editors
In the process of editing your novel, you may want to turn it others to help you polish your story. Today I am going to discuss beta readers, proofreaders, and copy editors. (To find out more, keep reading by clicking here.)
Investing in an eye-catching book cover
The cover of your book is probably one of the most important decisions you will make. It doesn’t matter if you have a great story if no one is willing to pick up the book or in the case of e-books, click on the image. The cover is the first thing your readers see and is where they decide if your book is worth their time to even read the book description. (To read more, click here.)
Writing an awesome book blurb
A good book blurb is an essential element in selling your novel. Some people find writing book blurbs easy while others struggle with exactly what to say and how long to make their description. The important thing is not to dismiss this significant element in marketing your novel. (Click here to keep reading.)
Finding your Book’s Target Market
The stories about authors who succeeded without any marketing are rare. Most books, even the really good ones, will become lost in the jumble of the millions of other available titles unless something is done to make them stand out, to make them become discoverable to their target audience.
This is one thing that many authors don’t take the time to find – their target audience. It does no good to spend all your time and marketing effort to try to sell your book to EVERYONE. (To read more, click here.)
Book Promotions: Cover Reveal and Pre-Orders
As you are preparing to publish your novel, here are two book promotions that you might want to consider. Both of these are done BEFORE you publish your novel to help build excitement for your book release. (Read about these promotions by clicking here.)
Is it worth it to offer your book for free?
You have published your book and want readers and reviews. Many authors choose to offer their book for free. (It is one way to get reviews.) But should you offer your novel that you worked so hard to produce for nothing?
Well, that depends…(Read more by clicking here.)
I am not a big soup eater, but there are two soups that I love. The first is the Zuppa Toscana from Olive Garden. (Check out my version here.)
The second is Loaded Baked Potato Soup. I saw this slow-cooker version on Facebook and couldn’t wait to try it out. Yummy!
10 slices cooked bacon, diced
3 cups chicken broth
2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and diced
1 medium yellow onion, diced
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon dried parsley
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk or half-and-half or heavy cream
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 cup sour cream
Salt and pepper to taste
Add diced potatoes, diced onion, minced garlic, bacon, parsley and chicken broth to the slow cooker. Season with salt and pepper. Stir and cook for 6-8 hours on low or on high for 3-4 hours, until the potatoes are fork tender.
Once the soup has cooked, add butter to a medium saucepan over medium heat and melt. Whisk in the flour until completely combined and gradually add in the evaporated milk or heavy cream, depends which one you are using. Whisk the flour mixture until smooth. With the heat on the lowest stove setting, let the mixture cook until it starts to simmer and is getting thicker, stir occasionally.
Immediately add the milk-flour mixture to the slow cooker and stir to combine.
Using a potato masher, mash about 3/4 of the potatoes.
Stir in the shredded cheddar cheese and sour cream. Stir well, until fully combined and creamy. Taste for seasoning, add salt and pepper to taste. Continue cooking the soup on low for 30 minutes or on high for 15 minutes.
If the soup is too thick, add more chicken broth.
Serve warm, garnished with bacon, cheese and sour cream.
The soup can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.