Monday, November 23, 2009

Balancing Act

Today, I'm pleased to introduce you to one of my encouragers as a mom and writer, Tanya Dennis! Ever since I had my daughter, Tanya's been there via Facebook to encourage me and tell me that yes, this is completely normal for whatever my daughter was doing. She agreed to do a post for me on balancing motherhood and a writing career. So without further ado, take it away!


In our results-focused society, we like checking things off our to-do lists, balance included. I would love to say balance results from a formulaic pattern of tricks and tips. Unfortunately, it’s not that easy. Achieving balance requires a lifetime of practice. Rather than a learned skill, it is a discipline. Only by working at it every day will one achieve it.

Be flexible.
As your children grow and change, so will your writing habits. I had no problem balancing writing with motherhood when my kids were toddlers. They napped at regular intervals, so my energies were naturally divided. I wrote when they slept and didn’t when they were awake. Very little conflict existed.

As they grew, however, so did my challenge. Now, at ages four and five, they no longer nap. Either I stop writing, stop sleeping, or learn to divide my attention.

How? I take one day at a time. I utilize every moment. I make outline notes at the doctor’s office, take my laptop to school, write during play-dates and while making dinner. I even hire babysitters when I really need some uninterrupted writing time.

Being flexible maintains sanity, but proper priorities abate guilt.

Remember what’s important.
Some wrongfully assume this means the kids always come first. That’s not true. Don’t get me wrong – raising children is the highest calling anyone could receive. But when writing pays the bills, you may need to give that deadline attention before taking time out for cloud-watching in the back yard.

In her book The Mission of Motherhood (Waterbrook Press, 2003), Sally Clarkson wisely noted that children should not be the center of their parents’ lives. Doing so is a form of idolatry and creates extremely selfish children. She goes on to say “My calling as a mother is the same as any other Christian’s: to fulfill God’s will for our lives and glorify Him.” This means your children must be a high priority, but so must your marriage, your community, and your ministry. Has God called you to write? Then it’s important.

Today your children may take precedence. Tomorrow your manuscript may take the front seat.

When deciding how much time to spend on each, consider a parental pact.

A parental pact is a family agreement about your work schedule: what you must do, what you can do and how everyone can help. Author Mary Byers discusses this in her newest book Making Work at Home Work (Revell, 2009). She encourages freelancers (like writers) to avoid setting vague goals or boundaries. Instead of working “as much as I can,” try to work X number of hours each week or strive to earn X number of dollars each month. This gives clear distinction to work time and home time. Boundaries give freedom. Knowing everyone is on the same page allows you to work and play hard.

Be realistic.
It’s okay to admit we’re human. Holding unrealistic expectations is the surest way to frustration. Sure, you may want to write a book every month, serve as class mom, feed the homeless, and still appear to be Martha Stewart at home. You may be able to do it all, but will you be doing it well? What happens if something interrupts your precisely planned schedule? With kids, it’s always a likely possibility! Don’t overbook yourself. Plan for interruptions.

Maintain accountability.
Set goals and stick to them. Find writing partners who can keep you motivated and challenged. Without them, your writing can easily take permanent residence in a dusty closet.

Accountability works two ways, first for you, second for your family. What are the rules you have for your kids? Can you teach them to respect you by not interrupting? One writer won’t let her family enter her office until given permission. They must stand silently at the door until she gives the okay. Because I don’t have an office, my kids can’t wait outside a door, but they can hear me typing. They stand next to me and wait (sometimes more patiently than others) until I reach a stopping point. Alternatively, I set a timer. When the kids hear the bell, they know I’m all theirs. Other times, they hear it and know it’s time for me to stop playing and get back to work.

Be flexible. Make choices about what you really want and what is most important to you. Set realistic goals. Enlist friends and family to help you get there.

Tanya Dennis is a wife to one, a mom to two, and a freelance writer and editor. She currently serves as Managing Editor of both Christian Children’s Book Review and Persevering Pens. Her writing has been featured in a number of local and online publications. Her editing clients have seen five of their books published in the past two years. Learn more at

Thank you so much for sharing your insight today, Tanya! Be sure to check out her sites. I especially love reading Christian Children's Book Review to get ideas for my little girl!

Until next time,

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Help Plan Word Wanderings!

Hello, everyone! I hope you're having an eventful November, progressing on your NaNo projects (if you're participating), and enjoying the fall, getting ready for Thanksgiving in a week. (Wow, is it REALLY time for Thanksgiving already? Amazing...)

I'm already thinking about topics for 2010, and would love to have your input! So far, I'm planning a roundtable in January on the topic of self-publishing, and have invited several successful self-published authors to join in this discussion. It's looking quite interesting at this juncture! However, if you're considering the self-publishing route, and you have any questions, I'd love to ask them of our authors. You can leave a note here in the comments, catch me at Twitter @Righter1, or message me on Facebook.

Also, any topics you'd like to see covered in 2010 will be taken under advisement. I've got a few posts planned (some even written!) but would love to know what YOU, my faithful reader, are looking for! Would you like more information on genre? ABA? CBA? Finding an agent? Something else? Let me know! The same methods above are the best ways to catch me.

Coming up next week, a guest post with Tanya Dennis who will share her thoughts on making a writing career and motherhood work together in harmony. You won't want to miss this, even if you're not a mother!

Until next time,

P.S., In case you're curious about my NaNo progress, I'm currently at 33K for the month. I'm ahead by a day or two only, and am hopeful to increase that lead in the next few days to compensate for Thanksgiving hectic-ness (and yes, I'm pretty sure that's NOT a word), and maybe get done before Nov. 30th! :) LS.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Playing God: World Building & the Writer

As writers, an enormous weight is on us to creatively build a world our readers can believe in. It doesn't matter whether it's the town you live in now, a futuristic alien world, on 1920s Chicago, our responsibility is to convey what surrounds our characters and how it affects them.

Personally, I've always found description a difficult thing. I don't like it, so I tend to be a minimalist. However, when I picked up a book not too long ago that took place in MY town (Kansas City), I was almost as interested to read the book for the plot as I was to see how the author (a fellow Kansas Citian) described our fair metropolitan sprawl. This sudden awareness of setting has made me a bit more open to the fact that I need to be more conscious of the world building aspects in my own novels.

While most of my writings have been present day stories set in my own town or region, my recent foray into the world of science fiction has definitely made me aware that there's more to world building than meets the eye. All of a sudden, I'm having to think what life will be like in the 22nd Century--not just hovercraft and other technology, but the political structure of the world, relations between people, slang that could be used, the types of medical procedures that may be done, all kinds of things I wouldn't have thought about otherwise. I can see, too, that the same would be the case in reverse if I were to be writing a historical novel.

Since working on 'Cora's Song', I've come up with some thoughts to help you as a writer more succinctly build your own world--even if it's a place you live right now.

  • Remember all the senses: Smell, Sight, Touch, Taste, Auditory. Don't lack in any of them to help give your reader a better sense of the world they find themselves in.
  • Consider how the climate may be different. If you're dealing with semi-recent history (post 1880s) try to check climatological data to backup the weather your characters experience. If writing in the future, did Al Gore's theory of global 'climate change' really occur, or was it just a bunch of hogwash?
  • Describe how to do something foreign to the reader. Perhaps they've never cleaned a Revolutionary War-era musket. If it's in the future, if teleportation is a viable option, how does that feel to your character?
  • How have laws changed? For the better? For the worse? What makes them different in your story than they are today?
  • What's different about medical technology?
  • How about male/female relations? Race relations?
  • Religion and religious practices.
  • How materials are used. Do the people recycle everything? Are there ways to utilize what we'd now consider trash in the future? In the past, how did people dispose of trash (or WAS there a lot of trash?)
  • Food and drink differences.
  • Fashion.
  • Transportation.
  • Entertainment.
  • Living arrangements.
I'm sure you get the idea. Before I started working on my sci-fi project, I never knew there could be so many possibilities for coming up with things to fill my world! Now moving into the editing process after a few month hiatus, I'm sure I'll be coming up with ways to describe things to my readers in an effective way. I just hope I can make it pop as well as describing Kansas City to someone who's never been here.

Additional reading:

Good Writers are So Lazy...
Details: Bringing Fiction to Life
Color Me Vivid

Until next time,

P.S., You may remember in one of my last posts, I mentioned I was considering participating in NaNoWriMo. Well, I did decide to join up, and you can track my progress in the column on the left side of the screen! I got a bit behind due to having a virus and being in bed for 2 days (with my brain completely fogged over) but I'm way ahead of the curve still. My project, tentatively titled 'Beyond Dead', is really coming along. If you'd like to read a brief synopsis and excerpt, go to my profile at and select the 'Novel Info' tab. I'm very excited about this project and where it's taking me! Thanks, L.S.

Monday, November 02, 2009

And the winner is...


Congratulations! I'll be getting in touch with you (since I know who you are) to get your address and get your book in the mail to you.

Louis became a follower of Word Wanderings during the time-frame of our giveaway, and as such, automatically became entered to win a copy of C. Maggie Woychik's 'I Run to the Hills'.

I had hoped to have a review up with this entry of Maggie's book, however, with preparations for NaNoWriMo (which I have started!) I've been a bit negligent in my duties. I will say this much: you need to get a copy! I am thoroughly enjoying Maggie's reflections and natural story-telling abilities very much, and the points behind her allegorical tale are poignant. (More when I get it finished, or I'll put a link up to my review.)

The next blog post will be next Monday, when I'll begin to get on a every-2nd-and-4th-Monday schedule here. Be sure to check back in for 'Playing God'. :)

Until next time,

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