Practical Prompt 1-11-21

It’s a new year and time for a fresh start. Clearing the clutter from your desk will help clear your mind for writing. Don’t forget to share the before and after pictures of your work space. Check @writeowls on Twitter for our own clutter-clearing reveals.

Insomniacs Anonymous 1-6-21

What better way to celebrate National Cuddle Up day than with a good book? What book are you cuddled up with today?

2021: The Year We Finish Our Books

The WriteOwls have made a pact. 2021 is the year we will finish our books! After a chaotic 2020, we are ready for some positivity in all aspects of our lives, including our journeys to becoming published authors. So, below, we outline what we each hope to accomplish in the new year.

Laura’s Goals for 2021:

  • Finish revising my book
  • Write every day for at least an hour
  • Read at least one middle grade historical fiction novel a month
  • Query agents

I finished the first draft of my manuscript in April – one of the few good things to come out of a pandemic-inspired self-quarantine. While writing it, the story was still revealing itself to me and I left fill-in-the-blank, go-back-to-this-later holes throughout. In re-reading it over the summer, I realized there are more holes than I thought. But, armed with a better sense of who my characters are and a more focused storyline, I’ve been revising in my spare time. In mid-December, I learned I had been selected for a mentorship sponsored by my region’s chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. The program runs from January through September, and the mentor I’m going to be working with is a writer I admire and respect. It was an honor to be selected, so one of my goals for 2021 is to make the most of the time I get to work with her. I’m making it a top priority to complete the revisions before the mentorship ends, so I plan to write for at least an hour every day before I do anything else. I also intend to read at least one middle grade historical fiction novel each month so I can learn from others in the same genre. Finally, before the clock strikes midnight on Dec. 31, 2021, I intend to have started querying agents to represent me and my work. Get ready, 2021. Big things are about to happen.

Megan’s Goals for 2021:

  • Finish revision of current work-in-progress.
  • Submit revised manuscript to agents.
  • Get an agent.
  • Outline my next manuscript.

The pandemic really got in my head in 2020. There was a long stretch when I just scrolled through news stories about the coronavirus while listening to news podcasts about the coronavirus. Even when I came out of the doom spiral, I had a hard time focusing on fiction. I did read some books this year—but not many. Honestly, I should have already finished half of these 2021 goals in 2020. But, I did what I could, and there’s no point in kicking myself for a pretty common reaction to a global disaster. So now it’s 2021, numerous healthcare workers in my family have already been vaccinated, and I have a glimmer of hope for normal family interactions in the coming months. (I’ll keep my wild desire for plays, live concerts, and football games in check for a bit longer.) In the mean time, I’ve adapted to the world as it is and am committed to making it just a little bit better through writing. It’s not a cure for the pandemic, but it is my offering of hope for a better future.

Stacey’s goal for 2021:

2020 was stressful, chaotic and so was my writing. I didn’t make any real progress on reworking my novel—and it desperately needed re-working. In fact, I barely wrote anything for a long time. Things were just too crazy, and I couldn’t get my head in the right place. But in the last two months, things have started to move again. I wrote nearly every day in November and December, and though two days out of three I wound up deleting as much as I wrote, the third day was usually a good one. So my goal for this year is to simply finish my book! That’s it.

Insomniacs Anonymous 12-14-20

What’s the best line you’ve written this month? Share it here.

Chore Days and Project Days

Stacey Kite

Since my husband retired a few months ago, we’ve come up with a new way to share the household tasks. It’s working really well and given both of us blocks of time to work on our individual projects. For me, that means more quality writing time, so I thought I’d share.

Here’s how it works. When it’s my chore day, I get up early—before the rest of the house—and write. Usually, I can get in an hour or two before Fred and the dog get up. After that, I’m usually done writing for the bulk of the day because it’s my chore day. At a minimum that means I empty the dishwasher, take the dog for her potty breaks and long walk, cook dinner and clean the kitchen up afterwards. I also pick one or more extra household tasks on the list, whether that’s laundry, coming up with a menu and putting in the pickup order, sweeping and vacuuming floors or cleaning the bathrooms. If I manage to get everything done with time to spare, I can go back to writing for a while, collapse or even read.

While I’m taking care of all the household stuff, Fred is free to spend the day working on his stuff. (Right now, his big project is building the closet organizer of my dreams, so that one’s a total win for me!)

Then the next day, Fred does all the chores while I have a project day. I still do my writing first thing in the morning, but then, if the words are flowing, I can keep writing because Fred’s the one who takes the dog out, empties the dishwasher and does all the chores. The dog’s long walk is especially great for writing because it gives me an extra one to two hours of distraction free time every other day, which is awesome!

Whether the writing is going well or not, I still have the rest of the day to work on my other projects. Since we just moved into a new house, I have a lot of other projects, especially in the yard.

Last month, for example, I built a raised garden bed—all by myself.

Though my brother, Larry—the king of retention walls—showed me how to build a rock wall and gave advice, I did all the work, from digging the trench for the foundation and packing in the gravel to cutting and gluing the cap blocks. It just about killed Fred not to take over or at least jump in and help, but I wouldn’t let him. It was my project, though I did ask his opinion, and let him show me how to make and use a water-level.

And I have to say, Fred has been fabulous about the chores. He even cleans windows and toilets and sterilizes bath mats! He doesn’t do everything the way I would, but then I don’t do everything the way he would, either, so that’s OK.

I know our situation is ideal, and far from most people’s norm—especially now during this *$&%! Pandemic—but even a mini version of chore day vs. project day on the weekends might buy you some extra, quality writing time.

Here are some things to keep in mind if you decide to give it a try.

Under no circumstances should you split kitchen duty. The person who cooks must be the same person who cleans up after that meal. The clean-as-he/she/they-cooks person will resent the crap out of cleaning up after the just-boils-water-and-gets-flour-on-the-ceiling person. And there is always a just-boils-water-and-gets-flour-on-the-ceiling person.

Avoid giving unsolicited advice on your partner’s projects. If your partner asks for your opinion and/or help, great, but otherwise button it. It’s his/her/their project. Of course, this doesn’t apply if there is significant risk of loss of life, serious injury or ruinous financial structural damage to the house.

Be patient when your partner gives you unsolicited advice/criticism. It’s going to happen, so be prepared. And you’ll give them advice too, even though you know you shouldn’t. So acknowledge their point, consider it, then do what you feel is correct. This applies to everything from folding towels to building retaining walls.

Do not critique your partner’s domestic skills or go behind your partner’s back re-doing everything. There is no one right way to fold a towel. Your partner will develop his/her/their own method, thank you very much, and as long as clean towels and underwear are making it into the linen closet and the drawers instead of mounding up in heaps on the floors, keep your mouth shut.

When it’s your chore day, don’t shirk. This only works if both partners are willing. If you see something that needs cleaning, step up and do it.

Above all else, be patient and considerate. Everything has a learning curve, even ordering groceries online, so cut your partner slack, here. It’s not the end of the world if you get shredded cheese instead of block cheese, especially if having someone else do the shopping bought you some quality writing time.