Writing with Deadlines

Writing with DeadlinesSo, you want to be a writer? My condolences. It’s not all luxury mansions, penthouse apartments, and crime solving like the idiot box suggests. There’s a lot of hard work goes into producing a submittable manuscript and every writer worth their salt will tell you that, sooner or later, you’ll be up against deadlines.

Now, this is an apt topic area this week as all of the muses are suffering from deadline-induced panics. All expect Amanda. Amanda is buying mountain bikes. Yeah, I don’t understand it either. What’s up with that? Anyway, I thought I’d take the time to share with you a few tips on meeting (and beating) those deadline blues.

1) Set realistic deadlines

Some deadlines are set for us and we have little control over those. Others, we set ourselves. Call them what you will — goals, aims, chocolate rewards — a deadline is a deadline. Sometimes these can help keep us motivated, especially on longer projects like novels. But, when used incorrectly, they can hinder your creativity and leave you wanting to give up.

When you set your own deadlines, ask yourself “Is this realistic?” You’re going to get disheartened if you constantly set unachievable targets and miss every one. While we would all love to complete, edit, and submit a novel in a month, it just isn’t feasible. However, it is reasonable to aim to complete a first draft in three months.

2) Don’t be afraid to say no

When deadlines are outside our control, we reserve the right to say no to them. This can be difficult for new (and even seasoned) writers, but it’s important. It’s better, and much more professional, to tell an editor that the deadline is too tight than to rush and submit something that doesn’t show you at your full potential.

The publishing industry is fast moving and we all have to turn down anthologies and other work sometimes just so that we can cope with the projects we already have. On the flipside, new opportunities come along just as quickly.

3) Plan your time

This is important so I’ll say it again, slowly:

Plan. Your. Time. Carefully.

Most deadlines are achievable if you have a plan and stick to it. Sure, you need to build in flexibility, but a plan is imperative to keep you on track and to get you to that due date.

4) Write when you’ll say you’ll write

This should be a no-brainer, but I’ve been guilty of it myself. Facebook, Twitter, emails, they’re all big time sinks. An hour spent on Facebook equates to three earth years (it doesn’t really, but it’s still time you should be writing). Use your plan to keep yourself on track and disable your self-control is anything like mine.

5) Factor in time for editing and proofreading

Writing isn’t the end of the story (haha…story). Your first draft will likely be terrible no matter what you think. Factor in time to let your stories sit before you edit them. Trust me, after a week, you’ll hate your story as much as I hate all mine. That’s where the fun begins. You need to give yourself enough time to read it back, edit it, re-read it, edit it again, cry a few times, one final polish, and then it’s out the door. Anything else and you’re selling yourself short.

6) Reward yourself

You met your deadline? Great job! Go you! You deserve a pat on the back for that and so you should give yourself one. Better still, buy yourself that bike (I still don’t get this bike thing, Amanda) you always wanted or, go and see that movie you really want to see. You’ve done a fantastic job getting here and you should be proud. Show yourself some love.


What are you current goals/deadlines and what strategies do you have for meeting them?

 

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What’s Out There For Me? Part One — Writing Applications

There are so many different types of writing software in the market today that it can be a chore finding the one that best suits your needs. So over the next few weeks, I’ll be taking a look at some of the more popular tools available to us as writers. This week it’s the turn of word processing and note-taking applications.

Disclaimer: While I acknowledge that there are many more applications out there (OpenOffice and Storyist to name a couple), I’m only discussing the ones I’ve used personally. I, as an individual, and Sarcastic Muse, as an entity, are in no way affiliated with any of the below companies beyond having purchased their products.

1. Scrivener (Windows and Mac) – $45/£33.90 exc. Tax – Literature and Latte

ScScrivener writing applicationsrivener is so well know amongst writers that its name is almost synonymous with writing software. A behemoth of a program, Scrivener offers an all inclusive plotting, writing, and publishing package and, with so many users out there, it’s now so simple to find a template that suits your writing needs.

Key features:

  • Distraction-free writing,
  • Cork board,
  • Scratch pad,
  • Scriptwriting functionality,
  • Statistics and targets.

Free trial available.

2. Ulysses (Mac and iOS) – From $44.99/£34.99 – The Soulmen GbR

Ulysses-writing application

Ulysses is the distraction-free writer to end all distraction-free writers. The concept of this program is simple — you only need concern yourself with the words. Ulysses developers have removed all the complicated toolbars of the WYSIWYG editors, leaving behind a clean working area for you and your words.

Key features:

  • Built-in file library — all your documents in one place,
  • Seamless iCloud/Dropbox sync — take your writing with you,
  • Goals and statistics,
  • Downloadable themes and styles to quickly edit and publish.

Free trial available.

3. Novlr (web based) – From $10/£7 per month – Novlr LTD

Novlr-logo writing applicationDon’t let the fact that Novlr is a web-based writing program put you off. It’s functionality is easily the rival of some of the big hitters out there and the cross-platform capabilities are astounding. With a beautiful, minimalist writing area, offline writing mode, and room to store an entire library of works in progress, you’ll never have a problem snatching moments to work on your novel.

Key features:

  • Constant access to all your words — all you need’s a web browser,
  • Automatic saving and word count updates,
  • Automatic backups to GoogleDrive and Dropbox,
  • Writing statistics.

Free trial available.

4. MS Word (Windows and Mac) – From $149.99/£119.99 for standalone licence – Microsoft

What can I say about MS Word that hasn’t already been said? This program is one of the most popular, and widespread, word processors on the market. It’s so widely utilised that almost all publishers and agents require electronically-submitted manuscripts in the .doc and .docx formats.

Key features:

  • Used industry wide,
  • Simple(ish) to use,
  • WYSIWYG editor with almost an almost limitless template library.

5. Pages (Mac and iOS) – From $9.99/£14.99 – Apple

Pages is Apple’s answer to the juggernaught that is Microsoft Word and, like its counterpart, I haven’t really got much to say about it. It’s a fully functional word processing software with Apple’s ubiquitous minimal design.

Key features:

  • WYSIWYG editor,
  • Cheaper alternative to MS Word for iOS and Mac,
  • Seamless iCloud syncing,
  • Works on iPhone, iPad, and Mac.

6. Evernote (Windows and Mac) – From Free – Evernote Corporation

evernote-logo writing applicationBefore I discovered Novlr and Ulysses, Evernote was my go to application for writing on the move. With its myriad of note-taking features (text, photo, ever audio notes) and cross-platform applications, you’ll never find yourself in a position where you can’t meet your daily word count (except through procrastination but that’s your problem, not mine).

Key features:

  • You can attach pretty much anything to a note,
  • Cross-platform syncing,
  • Web-clipping plugins allow you to keep all your research together.

What are some of your experiences with/thoughts on our featured software? Are there any others you feel need highlighting?


 

Get Away From The Desk

Get Away From The Desk

Now just where did I leave my inspiration?

Writing’s a solitary profession. Writing’s an indoor sport. We’ve all heard this before and while it holds a grain of truth, there’s always two sides to a story.

Anyone serious about writing should be able to knock out a few words wherever they are and make use of all that dead time we find ourselves in on a daily basis. There are times when getting away from the desk is the best thing that can happen to us, the thing that gets those blocked noggins working again.

1. Coffee anyone?

NaNo may be over but that doesn’t mean you have to stop speaking to or meeting with your local NaNo group. Get your laptop/tablet/pen and paper and get yourself down to a local write in. Drink coffee (too much coffee) and watch that pen burn holes in the paper. Those new friends you made in November could be the ones that give your rear the necessary boot when you’re ready to throw in the towel.

2. Talking to oneself in the great outdoors

As I mentioned last week, you don’t need to be chained to a desk to write (“But I can’t write unless I’m surrounded by my collection of surgical samples stored in formaldehyde.” Quiet you!) or even have the use of your arms (“Guess where the samples come from?” I said quiet!). There are so many smart phone applications for voice memos around these days or you could always invest in a standalone device. Many of them even transcribe for you with pretty good results.

3. Take the notebook somewhere new

I’ve lost track of the number of times a simple change of scenery has helped me knock the words loose. So I urge you, grab your notebook or your laptop and explore your city/town. Go somewhere you’ve never been before, find a spot, and just start writing.


Where’s the strangest place you’ve ever written and how did you fare? Please share.


Maximising Your Word Count

Maximising Your Word Count

There’s old school, then there’s old school.

It’s the start of another year and the Muses have already started asking me about my ‘resolutions’ (same as last year really, make it to 2017 with everything intact) but it did get me to thinking. Over the festive period, I’d seen an article or two making the rounds with the daily word counts of famous (and infamous) authors and there are some pretty phenomenal numbers on those list. Whilst I acknowledge that most, if not all, were full-time writers, it made me consider my own productivity and how to maximise my writing time.

Technology has come in leaps and bounds over the last decade. We’ve never been more connected than we are now and I’m sure many of us received a welcome gift of a tablet, smartphone, or something else with flashing lights and buttons. All this technology provides us writers with so much more than the ability to stream funny cat memes directly to our armchairs and, to paraphrase the Webbed Wonder, with great tech comes great opportunities.

So, I hear you cry, how will my phone/tablet/smart TV make me a better writer?

1. Dead Time

There’s nothing worse than waiting. All that dead time lost standing in line, sitting in waiting rooms, waiting for your significant other to just try on one last item of clothing. Use that dead time to boost your word count. Write using your phone or tablet’s built-in keyboard, write on the back of your hand if you have to. At worse, you’ll look like everyone else playing Candy Crush.

2. Commutes and Car Rides

A tablet/phone and a word processing/note taking application are perfect for jotting down all your thoughts on those long, dreary commutes. Throw in a Bluetooth keyboard and you’re typing at your normal pace. Most of these keyboards are small enough to fit in your bag and many integrate into the tablet/phone’s case.

3. Go Hands Free

Audio recorders and voice reminder applications are exceptionally useful when your hands are being kept busy by other things. Many of them come bundled with transcription software which, while not 100%, is pretty accurate on the fly.

4. Old School

For the technologically-challenged among us or those who simply prefer to kick it up old school, you too can maximise productivity by keeping a pocket notebook and pen secreted about your person for just such an occasion.

P.S. I lied about the Smart TV. The only way that’ll help is by switching off Netflix.


How do you sneak in those extra few words? Answers in the comments.


Ladies and Gentlemen…

…Please be upstanding for the Presidential Muse’s speech.

Ladies and Gentlemen

RLR:

My fellow muses. I am speaking to you now at the dawn of a new year, a great year — 2016. This is the year we will work hard to accomplish our goals. This is the year we will push ourselves to meet our deadlines. This is the year we will write.

We all have different experiences of the last twelve months. Some of you will have achieved greatness, and long may that continue. Many of us encountered difficulties, and to you I say that things will change.

With that, I am proud to unveil the latest weapon in anti-procrastination. They’ve been designed by our crack team of experts to suit your word tracking needs. My fellow muses, I give to you The Sarcastic Muse Writing Trackers…

TSM 2016 Writing Tracker – Single Sheet

TSM 2016 Writing Tracker – Month per Sheet

Thank you all and have a happy and productive 2016.

Translation:

To celebrate the beginning of 2016, we invite you to download our free writing tracker in two formats. Take a look at both and use the one that best suits your needs.

TSM 2016 Writing Tracker – Single Sheet

TSM 2016 Writing Tracker – Month per Sheet

Stay tuned, folks. We’re bbaaaaccccckkkk!