10 Tips To Focus On Writing

Life has become extremely hectic during the past decades. With the current development of technology, which, by the way, can be extremely helpful, in particular to us writers, it can as well be an enormous distraction. I caught myself so many times surfing through the internet, checking this or that social media account before writing, that, at the end of the day I had updated my accounts but haven’t written one single word.

According to scientists, the current average human attention span is around 8 seconds, which means, we are in fact, almost as low as a goldfish.

I was reading myself through psychological essays, meditation websites and a few other interesting pages for support on how to focus until I finally decided I needed my list of tips and tricks.

I am a writer, and besides being distracted by household things, health issues, cat stuff and social media, I love spending time outside… which, I finally realized, was one of the ways to focus on writing.

1. Spend time outside

Spend time outside. Maybe by going for a nice walk or enjoying the sunshine or taking a swim and thinking about your story, it will give you ideas you need to write down as soon as your back on your computer.

2. Work offline

Work offline. It will help you not to go on ‘checking’ on social media, and you can concentrate on your writing.

3. To-Do lists

Make two to-do lists. One for your regular day-by-day things and one for writing (and blogging). Make sure you don’t mix them up, but you need to block some time on your daily to-do list to keep some time for your writing.

4. Work spot

Look for your own silent work spot. Make sure you have a clean desk that doesn’t distract you and start your work. Enjoy and embrace the silence and, if necessary, keep the door closed.

5. Music

Help to focus on your work by listening to music you like. It will also help you to tune out the background noise that might distract you from your writing goal.

6. Big and small goals

Break down big goals into smaller ones. They’re easier to reach, and if you feel you are prepared and ready for the next goal, after a break you still can sit down and start to work on your next goal.

7. Breaks

Breaks! Allow yourself breaks in between your goals. Nothing is as relaxing as a break. It will refresh and reboot your brain. Just don’t forget to close the door again after you return to work.

8. Coffee

Caffeine helps to support your focus. It will wake you up, and while enjoying the warm, dark and spicy liquid in your cup your head is already on its way to your story. (You might ask, why does the coffee only make number eight? Well, I figure since we writers usually start our day with coffee, oral or by injection, I thought it doesn’t need to top this list.)

9. A Good Night’s Sleep

Live a healthy life with plenty of sleep. From what I read over the past few hours, many people are satisfied with only a few hours of sleep each night. Unfortunately being tired and confused in the morning after a lack of sleep, this might interfere with your ability to focus. Make sure you got plenty of sleep, with an average of 7 – 8 hours a night.

10. Keep your moods out

Keep work at work, frustration, and anger outside your work spot. Many writers do have a day job and don’t live off writing. To keep the focus on what you like to do, make sure you are relaxed and calm and left work at the office (or wherever) and blend out anger and frustration. It interferes with your writing.

Extra-tip: Certain food types might support the ability to focus. I figure to find out if that’s helpful, you will need to try: Blueberries, green tea, avocados, leafy green vegetables, fatty fish, water, dark chocolate, flax seeds, and nuts.

Picture courtesy of: https://www.liftlearning.ca/areas-of-focus/
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A Productive Writer’s Night

Picture courtesy of: http://www.poesiagt.com/2013/01/tipos-de-versos.html

I would say, the majority of us writer’s cannot financially afford to lean back and spend their life writing, no matter how much we dream of becoming full-time writers. And believe me, I’m one of these dreamers, I know what I’m talking about.

I’m happiest when I write. I’m relaxed and in a good mood, smiling, sometimes chatty, and I felt alive and focused on my task when I see my pen gliding across the paper and build a fantasy world, with fantasy characters and fantasy creatures… you get the point.

I have read so many articles about the power of wishful thinking, the power of positive thinking, informing the reader that only someone who strongly believes in her/his talent, is going to be successful at the end. And to believe in ourselves means to not only “hope” to one day become a full-time author, but know that we will become a full-time author. And that’s why we should resign from our job and become a writer who spends his/her time writing.

I try to be a positive person and believe in myself – I dream of being a full-time writer, but I also have to be realistic. My wishful positive thinking won’t pay my bills.

To permit myself to write, to travel, to meet new people and ‘old’ friends, to see my family and to write, yes… to pay my editor, my copyright lawyer, my cover designer, I need to make money. And that’s why I have a fulltime job.

My job is demanding, as is any other writer’s job. Some days we work many more hours than the ones we should because the workload is enormous. So, when do I write?

I am a night owl. Very often I’m most productive between 11 pm and the early morning hours. Of course, I cannot use the entire night to write and then go to work with nearly no sleep. I need to be able to concentrate during the day.

When I come home, I permit myself a break to calm down, get my work out of my head, wash the day off in a shower, eat, feed the kitties and relax. After that, I get up, turn my computer on and go to work. Depending on how tired I am I might decide to type my draft into the computer or continue to draft the new story that’s in my head, waiting to be written.

I work for about four or five hours (which doesn’t mean I have never extended that time frame). Then I go to bed and get some sleep. Three days of the five I work I sleep for about 5 to 6 hours before getting up and driving to my job. Two days a week I sleep an hour longer. The weekends I catch up on sleep before continuing to write either book or blog posts, for example.

From what I found out, many writers are night owls; I’m not the only one. Danielle Steele and Honoré de Balzac wrote in night shifts as well, only to name two famous writers.

I think the time doesn’t matter. An author writes when he/she is most creative. Currently, my workload only permits me to write nights and weekends, but I got a vacation too, and often then I’m more creative than during the entire work year. My biggest writing progress usually takes part on vacation. Also, I guess, it depends on the writer’s preference and creativity. Some people are larks; some are owls. I am the owl.

And then there are the times when I’m unhappy. During a spiritual low like this, I’m mostly unable to write anything useful and keep on typing in what I drafted before.

Right now, writing this blog post, it is 1 am. And yes, according to my plan I should have gone to bed more than one hour ago. But I couldn’t resist finishing the post before permitting myself to go to bed.

I figure there are as many writing routines as there are writers. And this happens to be mine.

Would you like to share your writing routine with us in the comments below? Thank you!

How To Organize A Blog Tour – Research by A. J. Alexander

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During the past years of activity on ‘Writer’s Treasure Chest,’ and the inquiries to publish posts and interviews for different Blog Tours I promised myself once I find the time I would do research on ‘Blog Tours.’ What is this? And why is it so important to writers? Who does organize them and if I have to do that myself, how to do it best?

What is a Blog Tour?

Alessandra Wike writes on “PR by the book”:
The age of the internet gives authors the opportunity to connect with thousands of people. Taking advantage of these seemingly endless possibilities, blog tours provide great publicity for a new book without the hassle (or expense!) of travel. Instead of an author traveling from bookstore to bookstore and city to city, an author’s book can travel virtually from blog to blog and garner hundreds, if not thousands, of views in a short amount of time.

To read the entire blog post, click here.

 

“Reedsy,” writes:

A blog tour is very much like a traditional book tour, where the author would go from town to town to sign their books and meet new readers; except this time, you go from blog to blog. There are countless fiction and non-fiction blogs that have emerged in the past few years, all written by passionate readers who want to share their love of books with other readers. They post book reviews, launch announcements, and interviews with their favorite authors. To continue reading the article on Reedsy, click here.

 

“Bookmaster” for example gives us a hint on what it means to work on a Blog Tour by writing:

A blog book tour can be set up by a publicist, but if an author has self-published and doesn’t have a publicist, they can do the leg work themselves. The key is to find blogs that are relevant to the topic of the book that are interested in participating in the blog book tour. For example, cooking blogs would be the target if you wrote a cookbook and relationship blogs would be the target if you wrote a book that provided love advice. Depending on the topic of the book there could be an unlimited number of blogs, or there might only be a handful if the topic is extremely niche. Each book tour should include a manageable amount of blogs, as the tour requires a significant amount of time from the author. Even though it’s not an in person tour, there is still plenty of work that needs to be done. (The article can be found here)

 

Now: what interested me most is: How do I really organize a Blog Tour? Of course, there are several hints, tips, and tricks from different writers; the basic work seems more or less the same – several have apparently had super-success while others complained that their echo was insufficient.

One article that impressed me was an article, published by Penguin Random House.

For example, does the post answer important questions like:

• What are the benefits of putting your book on a blog tour?
• What types of books work best for blog tours?
• How can an author ensure his or her blog tour is a success?
• How can an author work with his or her publicist to set up an effective blog tour?

or

• What are some best practices when preparing for a blog tour?

The entire article can be read here:
http://authornews.penguinrandomhouse.com/everything-you-need-to-know-about-organizing-a-blog-tour/

*****

 

By researching further into the topic, I found another impressive and informative post on Joel Friedlander’s Book Designer’s Blog. He published a guest post, 7 Top eBook Blog Tour Sites, written by Greg Strandberg.

Greg informs about seven eBook Tour Sites, gives prices, information and his opinion to them. I think it’s worth checking them out. He as well links their names to their websites. (For copyright reasons I cannot do this below.)

1. YA Bound Book Tours
2. Xpresso Book Tours
3. Enchanted Book Promotions
4. Bewitching Book Tours
5. Goddess Fish Promotions
6. Sage’s Blog Tours
7. Rockstar Book Tours

If you like to read his opinion about these Sites, please check them out on his article by clicking here.

Finally, after hours and hours of research, I found an excellent post, provided by Mixtus Media on

How To Set Up A Successful Blog Tour + A FREE Guide

They not only provide us with an 11-step-guide on how to organize a Blog Tour, they as well provide us with a free Blog Tour Worksheet.

STEP 1: IDENTIFY YOUR IDEAL READER
STEP 2: RESEARCH
STEP 3: CREATE A LIST
STEP 4: DETERMINE YOUR RESOURCES
STEP 5: FIGURE OUT YOUR TIMEFRAME
STEP 6: CONTACT BLOGGERS
STEP 7: Stay ORGANIZED
STEP 8: CONSIDER GIVEAWAYS
STEP 9: ANNOUNCE THE TOUR
STEP 10: FOLLOW THROUGH WITH THE DELIVERY
STEP 11: FOLLOW UP

Each step is carefully described. To download the Worksheet, which I did, you are first subscribing to their newsletter. But I doubt that’s a problem. They do have more interesting information on their blog. (I didn’t have problems to download their worksheet, just in case your virus program is sensitive. Mine is, and it has carefully scanned the file and found nothing.)

After all the information I had found on Blog Tours I would love to hear from experienced writers how they had found it to organize their blog tours. Is it easy, is it hard? Do you mind providing us with some extra tips, tricks, and hints?

How To Deal With Impatience When It Comes To Writing?

For years already I know that ‘patience’ and myself aren’t on friendly terms. If I want something, I want it now; not sometime in the future, but right now, as in ‘this instant.’ So, me being a writer hasn’t changed me significantly. Sometimes I want too much, too early. The process of writing (or typing into the computer) cannot be accelerated. It still means, to write one letter after the next, one word after the next, one paragraph and then chapter after the next one. I understood that pretty quickly, and that’s not mainly what bugs me.

But being a writer, even deciding to self-publish, means to call on other people’s services. We’re talking about cover designers (even though, mine is faster than lighting!!), editors (and mine is an angel and works with all her heart to make this book look good!!), copyright lawyers, author support service people and so on… Each one of them works with all their knowledge and ability, with all their heart and soul to make my first book a success.

But to me, all I can think of is there are so many people involved in my book – and there’s so much work ahead of me that still needs to be done, that every single delay, like financial straits, is driving me up the walls.

I want to see this book published – and not around Christmas – but now. Now as in ‘tomorrow.’
But: of course, to the same time, I want my book to be perfect. I don’t want anything hasty and sloppy, just because I’m swinging a whip. I want all my supporters and helpers to work at their own pace because I know, they’re excellent in what they’re doing! I’m not impatient with them – I’m impatient with myself, wanting too much too fast – and knowing about it.

My head knows very well tomorrow and the day after won’t be possible – but that little devil on my left shoulder permanently drizzles its poison into my ear and makes my brain fuzzy.
So for the past few months, I have been trying to calm myself down and try to practice patience. How to do that? There are so many different things that are suggested, and I think I tried them all.
Toni Bernhard J.D. writes that she can turn impatience into patience by distracting herself. For example, being stuck in traffic, she starts concentrating on models, colors, and drivers of the other cars. It helps her keep her mind and eyes off the clock.

This, I decided was a good start, but I figured it would be asked to much to listen to the radio to find out where there’s a traffic jam, only to find out how to distract myself… in particular since I’m not in a hurry anyway.

So I tried to distract and calm me with other things. Going for forest walks and swimming helps me a lot, in particular, to focus on myself and my way of dealing with things. Writing lists on what still has to be done, what the delay is and when that particular problem with my delay will be solved. To see it in written form helps me to see more clearly and not listen to my little devil.

I’ve been doing so much research on the things that need to be done before flawlessly publishing a book, that I have been prepared for this and accepted it. Which means, any hold-up is only caused by the weakest link in the chain: myself (or whatever ghost is hunting me currently) Everyone else does a fantastic job with their part of work on my book.

I want it done right, and I won’t let any little devil torpedo my dream, only because I permit my impatience coming the better of me.

This is a wonderful opportunity to say ‘Thank you’ to all the people working on this book currently: my cover designer, my editor, and my lawyer. You’re doing such an amazing job!! Thanks so much!!

Are you never impatient? What it is that causes it, in terms of writing? And how do you deal with it? Please let us know, we’re curious.

 

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Picture courtesy of: https://www.askideas.com/60/what-is-destructive-is-impatience-haste-expecting-too-much-too-fast-may-sarton/

 

 

Author Spotlight – Phillip T. Stephens

pts-portraitWelcome! 

Glad to be here.

 

  1. When did you start writing?

The first story I remember writing was a parody of Miles Standish for a fifth-grade assignment. It went over well enough to encourage me to finish the parody of the entire book. I was inspired by a stage-based spoof of Gun Smoke called Pistol Mist that my dad wrote for the church youth group. He repeated it at every church he ministered so it had a great impression on me.

The long version was terrible, which taught me some projects have a limited span. Before that, however, I wrote comedy sketches for my tape recorder and tried to convince my sisters and friends to perform.

No one cooperated.

I wrote seriously in high school, including a novel (75 pages). My creative writing teacher hated everything I wrote. She wanted flowery prose sprinkled liberally with Latinate words. I preferred a Hemingway style—shorter, Anglo-Saxon words and direct sentences. (She also heaped praise on her son, who was in my class, as a model for our writing.)

I began to read writers like Anthony Burgess, Terry Southern, Philip Roth, John Fowles and John Le Carré. I reread Catch-22, which I first read in eighth grade (it took the entire summer). The second reading convinced me my writing was juvenile, so I threw it away.  I didn’t discover I could write well until I took my first college creative writing class.

 

  1. What motivates you to write?

I can’t not write. I write daily, whether it be a series of posts for a Twitter novel, a blog post, or articles for Medium. Perhaps as a child no one paid the attention I wanted so I knew I could preserve my thoughts on paper for a time they would. Perhaps, like the Hebrew prophets I’m compelled to speak and writing is my platform. I know I never wrote to be cool or admired because when I first shared my writing, I received little positive feedback. Most of my friends thought it was stupid.

I might go a day every two or three weeks where I finally say, rest. But it’s hard.

 

  1. What genre do you write in and what made you chose this particular genre? 

I call my genre “wry noir.” Dark novels with a sardonic twist. My first published novel, Raising Hell, was a dark fantasy novel about an optimist who drives Lucifer crazy, (as was the follow up novella, The Worst Noel). My second, Cigerets, Guns & Beer, was a Western mystery/suspense novel. Ironically, my latest novel Seeing Jesus is a light-hearted YA novel (although bullying by adults and peers is a major theme).

I know not settling on a genre hurts my brand marketing. Wit and wry observation defines my brand, which is much harder to market. But I read every genre growing up, and personally enjoy writing in several.

 

  1. What is your goal in writing? Do you have dreams where your writing should take you?
  • I want to create intelligent books that any reader will enjoy.

 

  • I want to change readers’ perceptions of the world in some small way: to help them recognize that the world is not about us and it never was. Because of this we have a responsibility to leave something of value in this world and not take from it.

 

  • I also hope to help them recognize that other people don’t see the world in the same way that we do, they process information differently, form different values. We’re responsible for our own actions and not for theirs.

 

I was raised a Baptist Preacher’s Kid and everyone expected me to follow my father, grandfather and every uncle into the ministry. Fooled them. I took one message from my faith—Life is about service, not self-fulfillment, a message that seems sorely lacking in Christianity (not to mention the current political climate). I wouldn’t write if I didn’t think my writing served the world at large in some small way.

In grad school, studying literature, art and philosophy, the reigning aesthetic theory proclaimed, “Art for art’s sake.” I still adhere to that, especially given the current beliefs that art should be profit-making and reflect a narrowly-defined set of values. I also believe artists share a responsibility to make our work transformative. Our art should stand on its own; our vocation requires us to put our work in the larger frame of cultural revolution.

 

  1. Do you ever suffer from writer’s block and if yes, how do you deal with it?

Not really, although I will confess to procrastination. When I sit down to write, even if it’s two in the morning, I write. My first college fiction teacher John Vandezande (who wrote the book Night Driving, now out of print) said to write anything, no matter how bad. Start at the middle of your story, the end, at whatever point you can put words on paper.

I agree. You can fix bad prose. You can’t fix what isn’t written. Write paragraphs stream-of-conscience, outline, jot down notes and impressions. Anything to get your thoughts moving through the pipe. This is the only advice I ever give writers that I believe will benefit everyone.

I’ve thrown away entire chapters, sometimes as many as three or four. I stopped novels after ten or twelve chapters. I never thought they were failures. They got me to the chapters I needed and I wouldn’t have written the books I finished without them.

 

  1. What advice would you like to give new, hopeful authors?

Most writers never make a living writing fiction. (Few make a living selling books at all.) You need to seriously evaluate the role of writing in your life. If you want to write for self-fulfillment, recognize that, but be honest about your talent. If you don’t spend your free time thinking about your work, how to improve your work and studying other writers to see how they make their art, you probably aren’t ready to be a professional.

If, however, you’re determined to sell your work to the world, show your work to writers and readers who won’t pat you on the back and say, “this is good.” Find readers who will find the flaws and recommend improvement.

When you think you’re ready to publish, hire an editor and proofreader.

Most of all, don’t blindly follow the advice of every blog post. Most advice contradicts a blog posted the week before. Good writers take any number of approaches to writing—some from the seat of their pants, others with outlines and notes; some write 500-2000 words a day no matter the circumstances, others try to find a quiet space to concentrate when time permits; some write rough drafts by hand, others word process everything. Explore different approaches until you find techniques that work and stick to them. It’s okay to try something new, but if it doesn’t work for you, don’t trade it for something that works on that writer’s say so.

 

  1. Please, tell us about your work.  

I just finished a Twitter Novel, Doublemint Gumshoe (which I’m still Tweeting #TweetNovel), about a hapless, hopeless detective who stumbles onto a missing persons case that’s way over his head. I wanted the challenge of composing a story 144 characters at a time. When the last Tweet is posted, it will run more than 800 installments. I may rewrite it and re-release it as a real novel. I haven’t decided yet.

My biggest seller (which is like saying the biggest ant in the hill)—Cigerets, Guns & Beer—features an ex-con whose car breaks down in a small Texas town and ends up neck deep in the fallout from a thirty-year-old bank heist and murder. To make the novel more fun, I threw in a UFO and back story that connects the murder to Roswell.

During the seventies and early eighties, gas stations would sell Texas drivers beer from oil barrels next to the pump. They’d pack the barrels with ice, singles and six-packs. Drivers fill their tanks, grabbed their six-pack and popped a top as soon as they hit the highway. I joked to a friend that all we needed was guns and we’d hit the Texas Holy Trinity.* That line planted the seed for the novel. I’d been kicking around the idea of a stranger and thirty-year-old crime since grad school but couldn’t find an angle into the story that I liked.

I lived Raising Hell. I escaped from the worst job in the world, with a micromanager from hell, only to walk into a situation with four different managers with four competing agendas and every one expecting me to jump to their beck and call in a second.

From that came the idea of an optimist sent to hell by accident and Lucifer trying to find a way to destroy his optimism. Unfortunately, the hero, Pilgrim, believes that he’s already in hell so it can’t get any worse. He might as well make his punishment the most enjoyable form of eternal damnation that he can.

An agent suggested I write Seeing Jesus. We spent some time discussing my desire to write a non-fiction book about the way metaphoric thinking unconsciously drives our belief systems. She recommended that I read Gaarder’s Sophie’s World, and write something similar. (She rejected it, of course.) In the novel Sara Love learns to cope with bullying by adults and children through lessons provided by a homeless man no one else can see.

I plan to release an extended adult version this year, with a different ending, appendices and discussion questions.

 

Thank you for being my guest. It was such a pleasure to have you here!! 

How could I resist? Sharing on a great blog like this? I’d be a fool not to.

*Readers have just witnessed the joy of fiction writing. I’ve shared this anecdote dozens of times, but I just now made up the line, “Texas Holy Trinity.” I intend to use it with the anecdote from here on out, but that’s what all fiction writers should do—strive to improve your story at every opportunity.


Contact Phillip T. Stephens:

 

Twitter: @stephens_pt

cigeret-coverPhillip T. Stephens’ books:
on kindle
Cigerets, Guns & Beer http://amzn.to/1QG7t4m
The Worst Noel http://amzn.to/239NCNF
paperback
Cigerets, Guns & Beer https://t.co/7kTafuZEGp
The Worst Noel http://bit.ly/1mmJQAn
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Doublemint Gumshoe #TweetNovel

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seeing-jesus-medal-cover

Seeing Jesus also recently won three Human Relations Indie Book Awards

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Phillip T. Stephens will be one of the writers featured at this month’s #MysteryThrillerWeek, this month Feb. 12-17. Join him and others for advice, blogs, networking, reviews and links to hundreds of novels.


Quick Tips for Paperback Page Numbering

Jo Robinson from LitWorldInterview once more provides us with excellent and helpful tips for self publishing. This time it’s the page numbering! Thank you Jo!! We are grateful for all your informative work!

Lit World Interviews

When numbering the pages of your paperback manuscript, the thing quite a lot of Indies have trouble with is that they use Page Breaks rather than Section Breaks. A Page Break is just that—starting a new page within the same section of a book. With a Section Break you can have totally different numbers and Headers and Footers for each section. The way to ensure that your numbering doesn’t bounce back from the first chapter of your book to the front matter is to get rid of all the Page Breaks in first pages and replace them with Section Breaks.

page-break
Section Break after title page, and again after the table of contents, and every other page you have in your front matter.

section-break
Then double click into your Headers and Footers up to and including the first page of your first chapter, and unlick Link to Previous. This will ensure that…

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