Category Archives: Kylie Quillinan

Making Time to Write During the Holiday Season

It’s that time of year again: Christmas. I have a million deadlines at work, presents to buy (and wrap) and a ham to order. I have to decide whether to risk putting up a Christmas tree or to avoid it in the interests of not giving the cat an enormous plaything with removable parts. The rainy season is about to begin so I need to get the gutters cleaned. I have to find a new dog groomer, buy printer toner, get the carpets cleaned… If you have kids, they’re probably already on holidays and you’re now a fulltime taxi driver, money distributor and all-around entertainment machine. And, somehow, we’re also trying to write. Insane? Perhaps. Achievable? Yes, but only with the right plan in place.

Step 1: Decide your priorities

Are you going to commit to writing during the Christmas season? If not, don’t feel guilty – perhaps this is a time when other things need to take priority. But either way, make a decision up front. If you’re choosing not to write right now, set a date when your normal routines will resume.

Step 2: Check the schedule

Look at your schedule and find the days or times when you can most realistically expect to get in some writing time. Block out that time in your schedule and treat it the same as any other appointment. Don’t forget about those little pockets of time which are so easy to fritter away without noticing: waiting for guests to arrive, those precious minutes in the early morning before the household awakes, time spent waiting for dinner to cook. If twenty or thirty minutes a day is all you can find, then lock that time in and protect it.

Step 3: Set goals

This is a crazy time of year so set smaller goals than usual. There’s no point aiming for 3,000 words a day if you know you will be lucky to find half an hour to yourself. Be realistic: aim for half a page, 500 words, one scene. Whatever you can reasonably achieve in the time you’ve blocked out in your schedule. Alternatively, work on small editing tasks so that you can cross individual items off your “to do” list.

Step 4: Enlist the troops

Make sure your family knows what your goals are. Add your writing time to the family calendar and then consider how your family can contribute. Can someone else put on a load of washing? Who can be appointed Chief Fixer of the Leftovers, responsible for finding all of the half-eaten stuff in the fridge and setting it out for dinner?

Step 5: Make time to relax

If you’re running around in a panic because you have three million things to do and you can’t stop going over your mental “to do” list, you can hardly expect to be able to focus on your writing. So take some time out. Write down all of those things in your head so you don’t have to remember them. Give yourself time for a long soak in the bath or to read a book or go for a massage. We’re all stressed to the hilt at this time of year so find some time for you, not just your writing.

Step 6: Don’t forget Christmas

Don’t let yourself get so caught up in trying to meet your goals that you forget what time of year it is: Christmas. This is a time for friends and family, a time to take stock and look forward, a time to be thankful for what we have.

This is my final scheduled post for this year so I wanted to wish all of our Fictorians readers a very merry Christmas. We have big plans for our little blog next year, including regular guest posts and a new regular feature dedicated to the art of storytelling. See you in 2012!

And the Winner is…

The adjudicators

Thank you to everyone who dropped by the Fictorians over the last week to enter our Jacqueline Carey giveaway.

We have enjoyed reading about your favourite characters and I’ve added a few books to my “must buy” list. The lucky winner of a signed copy of Jacquelin’s latest book, Saints Astray, is… <drum roll> Jalen! Congratulations, Jalen. Send your mailing details to me at k.quillinan at yahoo dot com and I’ll pass them on to Jacquelin.

Thanks again to everyone who entered and a special thank you to Jacqueline Carey for making this contest possible.

 

Click here to read the first chapter of Saints Astray

Click here to order from Amazon.com

Characters We Love (with Jacqueline Carey giveaway!)

It’s been a big week here at Fictorians. Just a few days ago, we had our very first superstar guest post with David Farland talking about the future of publishing. We have more excitement today with a giveaway by the very excellent Jacqueline Carey. More about that soon…

I’ve been thinking this week about what makes a memorable character. Every now and again, along comes a character who is so alive, they seem to jump right off the page. This is the character who climbs into your head with you and comes along for the ride as you read their story and then lingers in your memory long after the book is closed. This is the character you want to be or, at least, to hang out with.

I didn’t discover fantasy until my early 20s (unless we’re counting Enid Blyton) and one of the first memorable characters I encountered was Phedre no Delaunay from Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel’s Dart. Phedre is a vibrant and beautifully-drawn character, sold into indentured servitude as a child and then raised as a spy and a very special type of courtesan. She’s intelligent, poised, determined, and just a little bit devious. She faces heartbreak, treachery and murderous plots, all while seemingly never getting a hair out of place.

Jacqueline Carey’s most recent novel, Saints Astray, which continues the adventures of Loup and Pilar from Santa Olivia, will be on the bookstore shelves any day now. To celebrate, Jacqueline is offering a signed copy of Saints Astray for one lucky Fictorians reader. To enter, leave a comment below telling us in 25 words or less who your favourite book character is.

Want more than one entry? Post a link to the Fictorians blog on your facebook page or your own blog, or tweet the details of our contest. If you do any of these things, leave the details (including your web address and twitter handle) with your comment. There’s a maximum of 4 entries per person (one for each method of entry).

Entries will be accepted until 9pm PST on Thursday, 17 November. All entries will be transferred to our special winner selection machine (ie a baseball cap) and a random entry drawn. The winner will be announced on Saturday, 19 November.

Sorry, this offer is available to US residents only.

Jacqueline Carey - Saints Astray Image

 Click here to read the first chapter of Saints Astray

Click here to order from Amazon.com

Maximise Your Potential

Through most of last year, I kept a spreadsheet of my writing progress (yeah, I know – you’re surprised, right?). I tracked the dates I wrote and my word count and I’ve discovered some interesting facts about myself.

I have a full time day job and work the usual Monday to Friday with weekends off. My spreadsheets shows:

* I tend to write for four days in a row and then take a day or two off.

* Sunday is always my most productive day.

* Surprisingly, Monday is my most productive evening. (Who ever expects productivity on a Monday?)

* Tuesdays and Fridays are my least productive days.

* On work days, I am more productive if I get up early (5am) to write, rather than trying to write in the evening.

Now that I’m more aware of these habits, I have been taking note of how I feel – mentally and physically – on different days. And, unsurprisingly, my energy levels correlate with my writing habits:

* Mondays I feel fresh and enthusiastic.

* By Tuesday, I am somewhat tired and less enthusiastic. The weekend is a fading memory and Friday’s not yet in sight.

* On Wednesday, energy and optimism is on the rise again.

* By Friday, I am tired and looking forward to the weekend.

* Saturday is often filled with running errands, catching up on neglected housework, and doing all the things I had intended to do during the week.

* Sunday is my last chance to get in some quality writing time before the work week starts again. I push myself to finish the writing I had intended for that week before it’s time to set goals for the next week.

So now that I’m aware of this, how can I make best use of my time? In looking at my writing habits through last year, there is no point pushing myself to write on a Tuesday. I rarely achieve more than 150 words per hour on Tuesday so let’s leave that as an evening to refresh. Clearly, Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday are my best options for writing productivity so I should ensure my schedule includes some solid writing time on those days. I should schedule all the other things that need to happen during the week, like housework, walking the dogs and going to the gym, on my non-writing days, thus maximising both my writing time and my energy levels. And obviously I should make more effort to be out of bed at 5am on a work day. Now that the nights are warmer and the sun is rising earlier, this should be easier than it was a few weeks ago.

Take a look at your own writing habits. What do you notice? Is there a particular day or time when you are at your most productive?