Tag Archives: writing

Eliminate Distractions and Stay Focused

If you want to be productive or even prolific in your craft, one of the many things you must do is identify and eliminate your biggest distractions. This is a lot easier said than done since you may have distractions that you aren’t even aware of. The easiest way to track them down is to pay attention to where your time goes.

Often times my friends and family would ask me what I did over the weekend or the night before. Anything fun? It would take some serious brain power to remember what exactly I was doing over the weekend. Where did the time go? Granted, my life isn’t super interesting but I knew I did more than stare at my SO. The cogs in my brain started turning…what do I do?

I started paying more attention to what I did when I wasn’t at work. Besides general home maintenance and errands, I came up with five things that were taking up most of my time and found ways to handle them.

1. Cleaning and Reorganizing

Throughout the years I’ve spent a lot of time cleaning out cabinets, reorganizing them or rearranging furniture in an effort to make my writing environment less cluttered and more peaceful. The problem is, this stuff never really ends unless you just stop owning “stuff.” Which is eventually what I started doing.

I followed my instinct and became a minimalist in 2015. (Check out my first blog post about minimalism here.) Now it takes me all of 15 minutes to clean our entire home. No excuses. I’m not saying you have to become a minimalist but minimizing what you have can greatly decrease cleaning time. I once dated a guy who said, “You’re always cleaning all the time but I guess that’s why your place always looks nice.” Well, yea but once I realized that the “stuff” I was constantly reorganizing and cleaning didn’t really mean anything to me or had no purpose but to collect dust or take up space…I ditched it. Now keeping an orderly home is no longer a deterrent or an excuse.

2. Social Media, YouTube and Video Games

I never realized how much time I spent on the internet until the power went out during a hurricane and I (out of habit) kept walking to the computer… Social media can be especially tough to stay away from when you’ve used it to help build an author platform. In order to keep fans and readers engaged, you’re expected to be a constant online presence.

We have forsaken the idea of cable and network television and instead, joined the Hulu/Netflix crowd. Even that can have its downsides because the show you want to watch may not be on either…it’s on HBO plus or Acorns. Before I knew it, we were signed up to 5-6 different streaming sites. While still cheaper than cable, it’s annoying. For a time, we canceled all of our subscriptions to see if we could do without. We could…but then we just spent more time on YouTube. The best solution here is to cut the internet off during scheduled writing time.

That brings me to video games. I used to be a big time WoW player (World of Warcraft) not to mention Diablo, SWTOR, Fable and a bunch of random games on Steam, PS and Nintendo. Video games can be enjoyable. They have great story lines and can consume you. They can also be filled with characters and elements to fuel your writing but sometimes it’s time to step away. If you’re struggling, some games allow parental controls that limit how long you can play or what times you can play. When all else fails, unplug the system and stuff it in a closet (especially if you’re taking part in something like NaNoWriMo).

This is the book that started it all for me with NaNoWriMo: No Plot? No Problem! Revised and Expanded Edition: A Low-stress, High-velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days

3. Research

I can’t tell you the amount of times I have allowed my research to take me off on a tangent. It can create a huge dent in productivity when you stop in the middle of your writing to look up one topic…which leads to another…and another…and before you know it, you’ve wasted two hours learning about random crap. Schedule time for research and stick to that schedule. If there is something that pops into your mind during a writing session, write it down or highlight that section/topic to come back to later.

4. Reading about writing

If you’re anything like me, you enjoy reading books about the craft of writing. I have dozens on my kindle. Have they taught me anything I didn’t learn on my own by actually writing? No. Have they taught me anything that I couldn’t find for free in a blog? No. Were most of them a waste of money? Yes. There are very few books about writing that I’d recommend but that is a post for another day. Stop wasting your time reading about what you want to do and just do it! That’s the best way to learn how and what works for you. Just write!

Yes, I pretty much just told you to stop reading this blog…

5. Fanfiction

If you have yet to discover fanfiction, you’re missing out. Some of it is fantastic, some of it sucks but ultimately it’s a huge distraction and guilty pleasure of mine. I go through phases of reading it. I don’t write it like I used to in high school. Instead, I focus on my personal projects.

What’s fanfiction? Oh, it’s when you can make whatever you want happen with characters that already exist in fiction with no repercussions. Meaning you won’t get sued for writing a story where Frodo never makes it to Mordor or where Katniss chooses Gale instead of Peeta.

So how do you just say no to fanfiction? One, you can cut the internet off as stated before or two, you can take your idea and make it original or somehow incorporate what you want to happen into your own story. Perhaps, have one of your characters write fanfiction as a hobby? Personally, I just stay away from the main site. Fanfiction.net…you didn’t get that from me!

In the end, I hope these tips help you stay on target with your writing goals. If you have any more tips or suggestions please feel free to leave a comment below and share your ideas. You never know how a simple idea may really help someone!

Suggested Reading: 9 Ways to Increase Productivity as a Writer

Photo Art © Vladimir Masilko | Dreamstime.com

Regina Bethory is a fiction author. She graduated from Christopher Newport University with a Bachelor’s in Directing and Play Writing and from Newport News Shipbuilding’s Apprentice School as a Test Electrician. She also has a degree in Funeral Services. As an avid minimalist and traveler, she enjoys spending her time learning new things, seeking new experiences and de-cluttering. When she is not writing, she can often be found in comic book stores and early morning matinees.

Why You Should Not Serialize Your Novel

When I first started publishing, I decided that I was going to serialize my first project. In hindsight, not only was it not so great of an idea but I also went about it the wrong way.

What is serializing?

Serializing is taking a longer work and breaking it up into smaller pieces. It was more popular back in the days of literary magazines, periodicals and Penny Dreadfuls- back when printing was expensive and the literacy rate was low. Don’t get me wrong, it has been used in more modern times. Stephen King first published The Green Mile in serialized format through a magazine. However, it’s not making as big of a comeback as others may want you to think.

Is serialization making a comeback?

No. I wish it was.

The idea is appealing. In our busy world, shorter snippets are more agreeable than a 200,000-word book. But with the overflow of self-published authors (some are definitely worth their salt- Hocking and Howey to name a couple) there are a lot of budding, talented authors selling their grand novels for the same price as one would set for a serial. This opens a whole can of worms (and I’ve considered doing a series of blog posts dealing with the world of self-publishing. The pricing of e-books. Mistakes that self-published authors make. But I digress.)

Mistakes I Made During the Process

Serialization is a great way to get your name out there but it’s most likely not going to make you much money unless you’ve already got a platform and a fan base. If it’s your first publication- don’t do what I did. Don’t try and serialize when you’re virtually unknown. Why? It makes it look cheap- like you’re out for money. You’re putting three pieces out at .99 c at 15k words each…or you could put the whole project of 45k words out for the same price. In short, the competition is too high among unknown authors to release a bunch of short pieces for the same price as one long piece.

I also made the mistake of publishing the first of three pieces without having the other pieces finished. This is a big no-no. Not that there is a time limit on self-publishing but it’s like submitting your first three chapters to a literary agent and then not having the whole book written. It’s literary suicide. And I committed it…and I’m still here and publishing (so obviously it’s not the end of the world BUT-) Save yourself some grief and don’t put yourself under that kind of stress.

Thirdly, I made the mistake of making my own cover art for the two pieces I ended up publishing. Making your own cover art doesn’t have to be difficult especially when you consider yourself an artsy person and have knowledge of graphic design concepts (something I know now that I didn’t know then). The covers looked like shit. The blurbs were awful because they weren’t for the entire story as a whole.

I mean look at these:

My original self-made covers...
My original self-made covers…

24872925

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…I made a huge mistake.

Luckily, I was able to take them down and start fresh. I ended up publishing what became the novella Laszlo as one piece. I got an artist to design the cover art and studied how to write a proper book blurb. Within the first night of these simple changes, I had eight downloads. What a big difference! Yea, yea, eight downloads won’t buy me more than dinner for one day BUT for someone who was completely unknown, with nothing more than a Facebook author profile at the time, I considered that a huge success.

The professionally made cover. Much better.
The professionally made cover. Much better. (First Edition)

So should you serialize?

Ultimately, it’s your life and your decision. However, if you clicked on this blog then you must’ve been curious as to what could be said on the matter. I highly advise against serializing especially when you’re new. Could it be an option for the future? Sure. Why not? Could it be an option if your name is J.K. Rowling or James Patterson? Absolutely. And if you do decide to serialize, please don’t repeat my mistakes. I did the stupid stuff and learned the lesson. Now, I’m teaching you so that you don’t have to.

Happy writing!

Photo Art:

Cover © Teodororoianu | Dreamstime.com

Book 1 © Michele1984 | Dreamstime.com

Book 2 © Lio2012 | Dreamstime.com

Regina Bethory is a fiction author. She graduated from Christopher Newport University with a Bachelor’s in Directing and Play Writing and from Newport News Shipbuilding’s Apprentice School as a Test Electrician. She also has a degree in Funeral Services. As an avid minimalist and traveler, she enjoys spending her time learning new things, seeking new experiences and de-cluttering. When she is not writing, she can often be found in comic book stores and early morning matinees.

NaNo Vol. 1: What is NaNoWriMo?

What is NaNoWriMo?

NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month which is in November. It started out as a national event when it was created by Chris Baty in 1999. Back then I think only twenty-one people participated so “national” may have been a bit of a stretch. Flash forward to 2016 and it has become international.

People from all over the world participate and they don’t just write novels. While it was originally developed for people trying to write a novel-length project, many use it to write short story collections, screenplays or even to tackle that thesis paper or dissertation.

Why 50k words?

The length of a novel is debatable. That goes along with other lengths of fiction as well, whether it be a short story, novella or even something as small as flash fiction and micro fiction. Genres may also play into length but to keep things simple, we will just talk about length right now.

Here is the breakdown from what I understand:

Short stories= <7500

Novelettes (I didn’t know they existed either)= 7500-15000

Novellas= 15000-40000

Novel= 50000<

That hazy area between 40k and 50k I never know where to place. I’ve seen some titles marked as ‘novels’ when they are very small. It’s possible that these fall into that gap. (Ex. The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Spears, or Brian’s Winter by Gary Paulsen.)

Also, most books that have a greater word count than 100k are often deemed ‘epics’ such as, The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien.

This is part of why 50,000 words became the goal; it’s the smallest length of a novel that is widely agreed upon. It can also be easily broken down over the course of a month. Many professional authors state that they write anywhere upwards from 1500 words a day. 50,000 divided by 30 days equates to roughly 1667 words per day.

The Evolution of NaNoWriMo

As you can see from some of what was mentioned above, NaNoWriMo is an ever-evolving monster. The main point that its creator was trying to drive was forming a habit of writing every day. Even if you only write 500 words a day, progress is progress and a daily routine/habit will be established.

Sitting down to write a novel can be daunting. Even if you’re doing it for pleasure (which should always be at least one of the reasons). After all, 50k words is a lot! And to think that’s just a first draft. Most popular novels are 80,000 words+ and if you write like Stephen King, he cuts 10% of his novel out during editing…so 50,000 words won’t cut it for a final draft.

The object is not to write a polished, publishable novel in 30 days. It’s just to get that first draft out. That can be the hardest part or it can be the part that’s most fun. The real writing comes in the editing process and re-writes. That is what will end up making or breaking you as a writer.

How did I first hear about NaNoWriMo?

I first heard about NaNoWriMo when I was in college. I was a member of The Writer’s Digest Book Club and one of the books I was drawn to was Chris Baty’s No Plot? No Problem! (Grab a copy here.)

Obviously, I purchased it and low and behold, he introduced me to his creation – NaNoWriMo. I’ve been participating ever since. That means that this November (2016), will be my 9th year participating. Have I hit the 50k word goal every year? No. I’ve only reached the goal five years out of the previous eight.

Why November?

November isn’t always the ideal time of year for people. In America, we are dealing with Thanksgiving and Winter Holidays, school, and travel. Whereas I have a friend in Australia who has Christmas during her summer break.

Chris explained in a YouTube video that November was the month his group of friends settled on due to family vacations. Now that NaNo has become so popular, two other annual month-long writ-a-thons were born under the name Camp NaNoWriMo. The camps take place during April and July.

My Goals for 2016 NaNo

This year, I’m trying to set myself up for success but I’m also crazy enough to shoot for a bigger challenge. There are several projects I want to work on this time around and I have no idea how long they will all be as I’m still in the brainstorming phase. However, this year I’ve told myself that I want to double the 50k word goal. I’m shooting for 100k. Yes, I’m insane but I believe it’s possible.

Rey (She is totally a Kenobi): Is that even possible?

Han Solo: I never ask that question ’till after I’ve done it.

If NaNoWriMo sounds like something you’d be interested in, you can sign up for free at their site. And if you need a writing buddy feel free to add me, Aljinon.

Photo Art © Weerapat Wattanapichayakul | Dreamstime.com

Regina Bethory is a fiction author. She graduated from Christopher Newport University with a Bachelor’s in Directing and Play Writing and from Newport News Shipbuilding’s Apprentice School as a Test Electrician. She also has a degree in Funeral Services. As an avid minimalist and traveler, she enjoys spending her time learning new things, seeking new experiences and de-cluttering. When she is not writing, she can often be found in comic book stores and early morning matinees.

5 Reasons to Get a Pen Name and How I Chose Mine

When I first started writing, I typed my name into Google Search to see what would appear. To my dismay, my birth name was a lot more popular than I had realized. After all, I had met tons of people with my first name but no one with my last name who wasn’t family. I found a music artist, a discographer, a “professional spanking model” …yea. Needless to say, I wasn’t any of those and most certainly did not want to be associated with one. After typing my name into the Amazon.com search bar, I saw results for an author with my name. I made the decision then and there that a pen name was required.

Even though the other author only had two books out and she hadn’t published anything since 1999, I had seen enough. I did not want my future audience to be confused. So what did I do? I started researching pen names and began the overwhelming task of giving myself a new identity- one that I could live with should this whole writing thing work. Here are some of the reasons you may be considering a pen name.

1. Your name is already taken by another author, celebrity or popular figure. 

Just like mine. Letter for letter. Word for word. Spelled and pronounced exactly the same. It can be confusing to an audience. Don’t confuse your readers. They are your friends.

I’ve included celebrities and other popular figures in this group. If your birth name is Mick Jagger or Tom Hanks, it may increase your initial sales but I fear what sort of backlashes may come. Will you always be in their shadow? Will their agencies retaliate (even though it’s your real name and you should have a right to it)? Don’t you want your own identity?

2. Your name is very similar to another author. 

This goes hand in hand with the first one, with a twist. If your name is Stephen Kinn or Susan Collins (I believe there are two authors named Suzanne Collins), it may initially boost your sales but what kind of repercussions might there be? Would your work be constantly compared to the other author’s because readers originally thought you were someone else? It’d be heartbreaking to have a bunch of two-star reviews because your style or genre was completely different to what people expected. Yes, it’s their fault for assuming who you were but do you really want to deal with that kind of drama?

3. Your name is hard to pronounce.

This one is pretty self-explanatory. Perhaps you’re writing for an English speaking nation but you’re not from one and so your names, alphabet characters, and pronunciations are vastly different. Might be wise to switch it up if you hope to become a household name. How many times have you heard M. Night Shyamalan’s name slaughtered? And that IS his pen name! Have you tried pronouncing his full real name?

4. You’re writing across multiple genres.

If you’re writing fantasy, science-fiction, and horror, fine. They often cross one another’s lines and can be commonly grouped as “weird fiction.” However, if you’d like to write erotica, dabble in science-fiction, write a historical western and a non-fiction book on the proper care of chinchillas…consider multiple pen names.

When J.K. Rowling stepped away from Harry Potter and started writing more adult novels, it backfired. Sure, she was still raking in the money but if you’re writing novels for the money, you’re doing it for the wrong reason. (We’ll cover that in a different post). From then on, when she published a non-Harry Potter book, she published under the name Robert Galbraith. We still knew it was her. However, it allowed her to create a new identity without the pressure of expectation.

5. Your name is associated with something not-so-great.

This is for those of you out there with last names like Hitler, Mengele, Stalin… or if your name is really Pol Pot. Granted, the last name I picked is very similar to Bathory so I’m being a bit of a hypocrite with this one. I thought it was fitting since I prefer to write about darker things. And I really didn’t want people to think I was a “professional spanking model.” I didn’t even know that was a thing!?!

How I Chose My Pen Name

That brings us to how to come up with a pen name and how I came up with mine. At first, I browsed baby name websites. It’s something I do when naming characters. I thought about all the names I liked. I originally published under Elizabeth Tesla which quickly became S.J. Tesla in an attempt to hide my gender/identity. I don’t recall my reasoning.

But there I was, not following my own advice. As a fan of Nikola Tesla, I wanted to somehow pay tribute to him. Should I start writing heavy science-fiction, maybe I’ll go back? In the end, the name didn’t fit me. It wasn’t personal enough. Next, I took a long hard look at my own name and pondered how I could rearrange it. I ended up combining my middle and last names to make Bethory.

Bethory. I’m happy with that. It’s not a real surname so no one else has it, yet it sounds a lot like Bathory which points towards my genres of horror and dark fantasy. Perfect.

Coming up with the first name was a lot simpler. My birth name means “Princess” and Regina means “Queen.” Essentially I just gave myself a promotion. But Regina means more than that. It was the perfect fit. It was the character I most identified with in ABC’s Once Upon a Time and my mother has an aunt named Regina, who (to make a long story short) made some very bold and independent choices in her life which I greatly respect.

Problems You May Encounter With a Pen Name

Now, I had a pen name that actually meant something to me. The only trouble I ran across was from people who knew me in person. When I changed all of my social media accounts to my pen name, I lost a few friends. But hey, if they didn’t know I was an aspiring writer at the time then I guess we weren’t that close of friends.

The other problem you may encounter is when people you know in person find out that you’re a writer and express interest in your work. Then you have to tell them that it’s under a pen name. I once had a co-worker ask me, “What’s the point of having a pen name if you tell everyone who you are?” Well, that’s just it. If you don’t tell them and they know you by your real name…they aren’t going to find your work. DUH. Engineers are supposed to be smart

Hopefully, if you’re debating on taking on a pen name, this has given you enough food for thought. Take your time and don’t expect to settle on something overnight. If you’re successful (and you will be should you stick with it!) you will go down in history with your new identity. Make sure you love it! After all, as an author your name is your brand.

Photo Art from Canva.com

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Regina Bethory is a fiction author. She graduated from Christopher Newport University with a Bachelor’s in Directing and Play Writing and from Newport News Shipbuilding’s Apprentice School as a Test Electrician. She also has a degree in Funeral Services. As an avid minimalist and traveler, she enjoys spending her time learning new things, seeking new experiences and de-cluttering. When she is not writing, she can often be found in comic book stores and early morning matinees.