Tag Archives: time management

4 Ways to Create (And Maintain) a Writing Habit

When I wrote my first book in 2013, I was newly married and working a full-time job. While writing, that dream of every writer’s heart whispered to me every morning: What if this is what you could do to make a living?

As I’d done for decades, I silenced that voice of hope with a quick and definitive, “Yeah, right. Nobody’s even going to read this thing.”

However, I’d just read Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art. Spurred to fight Resistance, I wrote my 50,000-word book in six months by waking at 5 a.m. every weekday and writing for an hour — whether or not I felt like I had anything worthwhile to say.

I accomplished that by changing my mind-set. What I had once approached as a pastime turned into an obligation. Where once I’d wait (far too long) for inspiration to strike, I found W. Somerset Maugham’s words to be true: “I write only when inspiration strikes. Fortunately it strikes every morning at nine o’clock sharp.”

When I experienced the truth that a writing life is built upon writing—a novel concept, I know — everything changed.

When my hobby became my habit, my identity changed to match my expectations.

I no longer said, “I want to write.” I said, with confidence, “I am a writer.”

It wouldn’t be until years later — after I’d become a full-time freelance editor, author, and ghostwriter — that I’d learn the four-step habit-building process I’d unintentionally worked through.

And that education, ironically enough, would come through a book project I had the glad opportunity to assist with early on in its development.

Atomic Habits (for writers)

The subtitle for James Clear’s Atomic Habits, a New York Times bestseller, is An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones. Its tagline is “Tiny Changes, Remarkable Results.” Through many well-researched examples, Clear presents reason after reason why a 1 percent change for the better every day is more beneficial than striving for one defining moment, or, worse, stagnating.

He also offers clear steps on the process of building better habits. Essentially, you need to discover your cue, craving, response, and reward. (Atomic Habits goes in-depth on each of these steps, and I recommend picking up the book for a fuller understanding.)

How to create and maintain a writing habit

To transpose his ideas to the writing world, let’s consider how each step could look in your writing life. Each quote below is from “How To Start New Habits That Actually Stick,” an excerpt of Atomic Habits.

1. “The cue triggers your brain to initiate a behavior.”

Your cue could be the place you write, the music you listen to, or the tools you use.

My cue was just getting myself from my bed to my office chair in less than ten minutes every morning. If I could get myself in front of a keyboard before conscious thought (a.k.a. Resistance) entered my brain, I could convince myself, Well, I’m already here. Might as well write.

Author and podcaster Sean McCabe automates lights in his office to change to a certain color when he’s scheduled time for himself to write.

I highly recommend using one or all of these cues: writing in the same place, at the same time every day, while listening to the same kind of music. As you establish your writing habit through repetition, your body and mind start to correlate that place, that time, and that music with, Well, it must be time to write.

Now, pause here to consider what your cue could be.

2. “Cravings…are the motivational force behind every habit.”

Clear notes, “What you crave is not the habit itself but the change in state it delivers.”

In other words, I didn’t crave getting up at 5 a.m., at least not initially. I craved the sense of accomplishment from being a writer working toward a long-sought-after goal. To be honest, I also craved the moment I’d be able to tell friends and family, “I wrote a book.”

Your craving may be the same, but it could also be to make money or a living through your words, or to earn respect for your opinions or skill.

Now, ask yourself, “What change of state am I seeking as a result of my writing?”

3. “The response is the actual habit you perform.”

Writers ought to have only one response to their cues and cravings: writing!

Of course, being a writer today requires far too many extracurricular activities, like promoting your list or pitching agents, but the habit you must perform without fail to become a writer and stay a writer is to write.

Yet, I’m willing to bet, most of us struggle to do that consistently for a host of reasons.

That’s why following Clear’s four stages of habit-making — which loop back upon themselves — is so helpful.

4. “Rewards are the end goal of every habit.”

Once your cue has led to your craving, your craving has led to your response, your response leads to your reward. You finally get to enjoy the fruits of your labors.

These rewards can take a few forms.

Maybe it’s the endorphin kick when you finally figure out your plot or when one of your characters surprises you on the page.

Maybe it’s the realization that you’re doing what you’ve always said you’d do.

Maybe it’s being able to talk about your work-in-progress because you finally have a work-in-progress.

For me, my reward was Pavlovian. I used Scrivener’s word count goal feature to meet my daily word count goals. Every time I’d cross that number, Scrivener would give me a pleasant ding and a pop-up of congratulations.

Eventually, I craved hearing that noise.

For all of those early mornings, my habit loop wasn’t about writing a book and whatever rewards could come from publication. Rather, my habit loop was much simpler: I just wanted to hear that chime, signifying that I’d met my goal.

And, by just getting 1 percent better every day, I eventually wrote a book, published it, and then turned that work into a career in writing.

That whisper of fear I once had has been replaced with a daily shout of joy: This is what I get to do for a living. (And I have incredible clients to thank for that.)

If you’re ready to transform your writing hobby into a writing habit, I hope you’ll experience the same kind of identity shift.

You’re not going to write.

You are a writer.

By Blake Atwood

Source: thewritelife.com

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Should You Keep Writing Even if It’s Not Fun Any More?

I mentioned in the Aliventures newsletter a couple of weeks ago that I finished NaNo on 23,000 words: not all that close to the 50,000 words I’d been aiming for!

So what happened? Several things: I had a bad cold, my kids were poorly, and we had a few unexpected little things go wrong. Some good stuff happened, too: I started volunteering one morning a week at my daughter’s school, and I picked up some more freelancing work.

All of this meant for less novel-writing time.

But one key thing that happened, perhaps more important than all the practical difficulties, was that I just wasn’t enjoying writing my novel.

Aiming for 50,000 words in a month was, frankly, unrealistic – and it was stressing me out!

On Sunday 11th November, for instance, I’d spent the day looking after the kids (Paul was out). I’d taken them to a birthday party, caught two trains home, given them tea, settled them into bed, and so on.

My five-year-old wanted me to stay outside her room while she fell asleep, so I sat on the floor with my laptop, trying to write a scene that just wasn’t coming together (and getting interrupted every three minutes by her wanting to ask for things).

This was possibly a new low in terms of “how badly can a writing session go”!

Maybe you’ve had similar times: times when you feel that you should write, but the fun’s gone out of it. When you feel overly pressured by a deadline, or when the project you’re working on has stopped being enjoyable.

Should Writing Be Fun?

There are plenty of types of writing that aren’t ever going to be “fun”, but that we do anyway. Maybe you have to write a lot of emails at work, for instance, or you’re a freelancer writing about topics that don’t particularly engage you.

In these situations, it may not matter that your writing isn’t much fun: you might be perfectly content to do it for the paycheck. And that’s fine! (Though if you hate the writing you’re doing, then it’s probably time to start thinking about a change of career or at least a change of clients.)

If you’re working on a novel, or a collection of poems, however, or you’re writing short stories for competitions – you aren’t necessarily ever going to see any money for your efforts. While there will almost certainly be tough times during your writing, you want – overall! – to be enjoying the process.

What You Can Do to Make Writing Fun Again

If you feel like the fun’s gone out of writing, you might want to:

#1: Take the Pressure Off

Are you rushing to meet an unrealistic deadline, like I was with NaNo? Some people find deadlines helpful and motivating – I’m one of them! – but trying to cram writing into an overpacked schedule isn’t much fun at all.

Fix it: Unless you really have to hit that deadline, could you push it back a bit? Even an extra couple of weeks might make all the difference to how you’re feeling.

#2: Consider Whether You’re Writing the Right Thing

Sometimes, if you feel that your writing is a chore or a bit pointless, it’s because there’s an issue with the thing you’re writing.

Maybe you’ve dashed forward with your novel without really thinking through the plot (which was part of my NaNo problem, too). Or maybe you’re plodding away with something even though you’ve lost interest in that particular idea.

Fix it: If you want to stick with your current project but it feels like it’s not coming together, sit down with a pen and notebook and do some brainstorming. What could you change? What new elements could you add in – or what could you take out?

#3: Give Yourself Permission to Write “Just For Fun”

How often do you write something purely for the sake of writing – to enjoy playing with words, creating characters, exploring an idea, or whatever it might be?

Probably not often!

When life’s busy, I want all my writing to be adding up to something productive, like a finished blog post, or another chapter of my novel. It can be really difficult to allow myself to simply enjoy writing: to focus on the journey itself, not the destination.

Fix it: Can you give yourself a little bit of time to just have fun with your writing – even if it’s just five or ten minutes once a week? You might want to use writing prompts to get you going (I like the “take three nouns” writing prompt generator).

#4: Quit a Project That Isn’t Working

Sometimes, you try something out and … it doesn’t work.

Maybe you started a blog full of enthusiasm, then lost interest after a few weeks or months. (I had two blogs before Aliventures, on two very different topics, and abandoned both years ago.)

Or maybe you began a novel, enjoyed writing the first few chapters, but have now realised it really isn’t going anywhere.

Fix it: It’s OK to quit. In fact, it’s good to quit things that have served their purpose in your life. Perhaps those first 10,000 words of your novel were a crucial writing experience that you needed to go through in order to write something new and better. Maybe that failed blog gave you the skills you need to start a new, successful one.

With any writing project, big or small, it’s normal to go through some difficult patches.

But, most of the time, your writing should be something that you enjoy: something you look forward to, rather than yet another chore you want to cross off your list as soon as possible.

How could you bring the fun back into your writing this week?

Source: aliventures.com

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All About Productivity

Productivity is a key concern of Bang2writers. It’s not difficult to see why: procrastination is a huge problem for writers. It’s easy to get stuck in a non-productive rut. We are daydreamers after all!

So, if you’re a hobby writer wanting to turn pro, or a pro wanting to get more done, you need to learn how to boost your productivity. Luckily, we at B2W Headquarters have put together this handy round-up to help you make the most of your writing time.

1) 11 Habits That Can Transform Your Productivity

Create good habits. Sounds easy, doesn’t it?? Yet it’s something many creatives struggle with. Working for yourself, sometimes with little to zero pay, can damage productivity and good habits. HERE are some tips to help stay on track.

2) The Weird and Wonderful Habits of 20 Famous Writers

Want to know which famous writer you are most like when it comes to crazy writing habits? Maybe you want to adopt the habits of a writer you admire to help increase productivity? CLICK HERE.

3) 6 Tips for Boosting Writing Productivity

HERE are some more ideas for improving productivity. The key? Work smarter not harder!

4) 1 Simple Tip to Help You Get More Writing Done

What is ‘dead time’? How can you use it to get more writing done? Don’t let time control you, control time. You might not have a Tardis or a Time-Turner but you do have control over a lot more of your time than you think. Find out HERE.

5) 5 Steps to Beat Procrastination and Stay Focused

Here are some great procrastination busters. No one EVER said ‘I wish I had procrastinated more’! HERE are the steps you need to make sure you won’t regret *not* making the time to create that wonderful work bubbling inside you.

6) How to Get Writing Done, According To 20 Famous Authors

The best way to get stuff done? Learn from the masters – and mistresses! – in the know. Check out these tips, HERE.

7) How to Stop Wasting Writing Time Procrastinating Online

 Did you watch last night’s episode? Yeah, there was a huge argument in an online writing group about that show, did you see it? Blah, blah, CONCENTRATE! To learn how to avoid getting distracted during times allocated for writing, CLICK HERE.

8) How to Improve Your Focus as A Writer

With so many distractions it can be difficult to focus. HERE are some great tips for keeping your eyes on the prize.

9) 12 Unusual and Achievable Productivity Hacks for Writers

Turn an old tennis ball into a car key holder, use your cat as a winter hat. We all love a fun life hack. HERE are some cool productivity hacks to try out today.

10) How To Set Meaningful Goals And Stick To Them

Productivity isn’t about just throwing spaghetti at the wall. Creating meaningful goals means you’re much more likely to stick to them! Find out why, HERE.

Last Words

I hope you enjoyed this round-up on productivity. No more excuses. Get that wonderful work finished and out in the world for others to enjoy. Laser focus!

By Lucy V Hay
Source: bang2write.com

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing

Writing Deadlines: The Unlikely Secret to Creative Freedom

Do you know how to set your own writing deadlines to accomplish your dreams? Ruthanne wrote here about how a move helped her discover the power of deadlines. Joe heartily endorses setting your own deadlines with consequences as accountability (that’s how he wrote his most recent book).

Learning to set and meet your own writing deadlines not only helps you get your work done, it provides creative and productive freedom.

I’m a firm believer in deadlines.

Some will argue that creativity has no end point and that they can’t be inspired if there’s a timeline. If that mindset results in powerful writing and stories that resonate with readers as regularly as you’d like, then go forth and continue with the process that is working for you!

If, however, you can’t seem to finish in the time and manner you desire, a little deadline practice might be just the thing you need to propel your writing forward.

Why you need a writing deadline

I’m a teacher. My students regularly develop ideas, draft, revise, and submit their writing.

When I don’t set a deadline for assignments, guess how many students voluntarily turn in their work in a timely manner? Very few.

This probably sounds familiar if you’ve had a traditional school experience (adult working environments often work this way too!).

We tend to think we’ll have more time to do it later, or that we just need a little more research, experience, or coffee. (You probably do need more coffee.) Others believe they do their best work at the last minute, but sometimes that is because it’s the only time they write.

A deadline cuts down all those reasons and forces us to get to work.

Planning for a writing deadline

As I plan for student deadlines, I always make room for thinking and idea development. We draft. Then we take several passes at the writing to revise.

I realized early in my teaching career that most students were going to spend about the same amount of time on a first draft whether they wrote it in one speed session the night before it was due or spaced it out over several days. Most students didn’t take the time to revise, because they didn’t know how or there wasn’t time after an all-nighter.

As a result, I began in-class writing sprints, telling students the first draft was due at the end of the period. Whining inevitably ensued, but guess how many students had a draft at the end of the period? All of them. Funny how a ticking clock activated the words.

If you are planning your own deadline, look at when you want the final draft done and then back plan, giving yourself time to revise, write, and develop the idea. (Pro tip: leave yourself a little more time for revision than you think you’ll need if this is your first time revising.)

When you blow a deadline

You might be thinking, “I’ve tried that before and I blew it. Deadlines don’t work for me.” Just because you miss a deadline doesn’t mean they don’t work. It means you have an opportunity to grow.

I recently missed a deadline here at The Write Practice. I felt terrible, but I didn’t wallow in it. I apologized and did some self-evaluation. Why did I miss it? What could I do to avoid letting it happen again?

Consider that sometimes your writing deadlines are unrealistic. Manage those expectations more effectively and set a new, better deadline. Sometimes you are in a difficult writing or life season. Be honest about that and forgive yourself, knowing the situation will change.

The more you practice setting and meeting writing deadlines, the better you will get at estimating time and the amount of work needed.

The secret freedom of setting your own deadlines

My high school students claim to want independence, but they are just like me. I want the fun parts of independence without the responsibility. At the beginning of the year, I am the one who provides deadlines and due dates, but I slowly begin to turn that responsibility over to students as the year progresses. Why?

When they require someone else to set their deadlines, they aren’t really in control of their life and process. I’m the same way. If I know an article is going to take me an hour to write and another hour or two to edit, I can wait until the night before it’s due and stay up late to finish, or I can do it when it makes the most sense in my schedule.

Why wait for someone else to tell me when it is due? I take control of my creative process by setting my own writing deadlines.

When you ignore your own deadlines

For a long time, I set goals or deadlines for myself, and then I wouldn’t follow through. I thought maybe it was just me. I realized though that no one had ever taught me to push through the process.

I believe it was Tim Grahl who once talked about how he would push through procrastination and tell himself, “You need to do this now, because Friday-you isn’t going to have the time or energy.”

That resonated with me. I have since used it with students to help them think through to the end.

I also realized I couldn’t continue to ignore my own writing deadlines after completing a 60,000 word draft during NaNoWriMo a few years ago. I still needed about 20K to finish the story.

No one had a deadline on that book but me. If I hadn’t set my own deadline, the book wouldn’t be in revision right now. It would still be sitting on my hard drive — not even collecting dust like a respectable unfinished manuscript of old.

If you are still in the I-should-write-a-book stage, no one is going to give you a deadline. You have to do it for yourself. Accept that truth and find freedom in knowing you are in control of this part of the process.

Deadlines have a best friend: accountability

When you combine a deadline with another writer or group to hold you accountable, you will find yourself meeting writing deadlines left and right. When I first joined Becoming Writer, our forum here at The Write Practice, I knew I needed to post something each Friday. Suddenly, I had a deadline and a group of people who checked on me.

If you are struggling to set and meet your own deadlines, find a partner or group to help hold you accountable.

I still work under deadlines that others set for me, but I have found that more often than not, I can challenge myself to beat those deadlines by making my own.

What has been your experience with deadlines? Have you found them to be freeing or constricting? Share in the comments.

By Sue Weems
Source: thewritepractice.com

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How do you describe a place? 6 setting tips

The setting of your story is key to readers being able to imagine ‘being there’. How do you describe a place so it is characterful and contributes effectively to your story? Try these 6 tips:

1. Describe place through characters’ senses

We feel connected to place in a story when we see it through characters’ senses. Bring senses such as sight, hearing, touch, smell and even taste (there’s edible wallpaper in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) into your setting. Using every sense might not make sense for your book, yet it’s possible. In Roald Dahl’s children’s classic, set in a sweet factory full of wonder, it somehow makes sense even the wallpaper is delicious.

When describing places in your story, think about tone and mood. Should this setting be intimidating or welcoming? Ancient, dusty and arcane or ultra-modern and spotless? What does an ancient, dusty mood smell like (old books? Damp carpets?).

Use the ‘Core Setting’ section of your story dashboard on Now Novel to brainstorm descriptive elements and create more detailed settings.

Example of effective sensory place description

In Margaret Atwood’s novel Cat’s Eye (1989), the protagonist Cordelia recalls her childhood in flashbacks. Here, Cordelia describes her childhood home, when her parents would throw bridge (the card game) parties:

Then the doorbell begins to ring and the people come in. The house fills with the alien scent of cigarettes, which will still be there in the morning along with a few uneaten candies and salted nuts, and with bursts of laughter that get louder as time passes. I lie in my bed listening to the bursts of laughter. I feel isolated, left out. Also I don’t understand why this activity, these noises and smells, is called “bridge.” It is not like a bridge. (pp. 168-169)

Atwood uses sound and smell to paint an idea of the strangeness of being a child in an adult’s world. She uses the young Cordelia’s senses to create place and this puts us in the scene, as we experience young Cordelia’s surrounds through her perspective.

2. Include time period in description

‘Time’ is an important aspect of setting. This is particularly so in historical fiction. Details from the types of buildings and shops that line the main road of a city to individual details of people’s clothing and speech contribute to a sense of when the story happens. A story set in 1950s Chicago will naturally have very different buildings, cars, and people, than one set in the late 2000s.

How do you describe a place so the reader can sense the time period?

  • Show technology: What are the ordinary tools people have at their disposal? See, for example, the period-specific radio in the image below
  • Show culture: How do people live? Are there rigid gender roles between the sexes? What do the majority believe? Convey these social patterns and habits in the way people speak and things they say
  • Include current interests, challenges or obstacles: In the time period of your story, what are the hot topics of the day? Are people worried about a war, a new law, a change in government?

Period setting - 1950s Chicago scene with old radio | Now Novel

Example of time period in setting description

In Alice Munro’s semi-autobiographical collection of stories, The View from Castle Rock (2006), the Canadian author traces the history of her Scottish ancestors. Here, she recalls the simple ways of village life in the 1700s, describing the life of her ancestor William Laidlaw:

The first story told of Will is about his prowess as a runner. His earliest job in the Ettrick Valley was as a shepherd to a Mr. Anderson, and this Mr. Anderson had noted how Will ran straight down on a sheep and not roundabout when he wanted to catch it. So he knew that Will was a fast runner, and when a champion English runner came into the valley Mr. Anderson wagered Will against him for a large sum of money. (p. 9)

The details here convey a sense of rural life in 18th Century Scotland. Descriptions of herding sheep and rival runners create a sense of an agrarian, outdoor way of life conjuring earlier, less modern times.

Munro goes further creating period in her setting by describing the clothing Will receives in reward for winning the race against the English runner:

Mr. Anderson collected a fine heap of coins and Will for his part got a gray cloth coat and a pair of hose.

The reference to hose, which men don’t typically wear in modern times, further places the story in earlier times.

3. Include small-scale changes in time

In addition to creating the broader sense of time or period, you can use small-scale time (such as time of day or the way place changes week to week or month to month).

Think of how time of day and physical changes to a place in time can both contribute tone and mood.

For example, if a city is bombed over a week’s period in a story, what does it look like at the start versus at the end? As an exercise, describe a sleek, modern city in a few sentences. Then describe the same elements of the city after a week of civil warfare. What has changed and what mood do these changes create?

Including time of day can create moods such as:

  • Fear: Nighttime may bring vulnerabilities such as reduced visibility and general fear
  • Langour and laziness: The golden light of a late afternoon outdoor social gathering, for example</li.
  • Excitement: For example, the breaking light of an important and exciting day such as a wedding or holiday

Weaving in details of time of day as well as the way places change over a day, week, month or year will create a sense of your setting being a dynamic, active and real place.

Example of effective use of small-scale time in writing setting

In his historical novel Oscar and Lucinda (1988), the Australian author Peter Carey describes a stormy nighttime scene where the lights in Oscar’s family’s home go out:

There was no torch available for my father because I had dropped it down the dunny [toilet] the night before. I had seen it sink, its beam still shining through the murky fascinating sea of urine and faeces… So when the lights went off in the storm the following night, he had no torch to examine the fuse-box. (p. 3)

Carey weaves a succession of nightly events together to show the frustrations of Oscar’s father. This use of time, coupled with the stormy setting, creates tension. When the father asks Oscar’s mother where the fuse-wire is, she says ‘I used it…to make the Advent wreath’ [for the church].

Oscar’s father’s response is to blaspheme. The mother, being devout, makes them all kneel to ask God’s forgiveness.

Carey ends the scene showing a change in the setting and how the mother interprets it:

We stayed there kneeling on the hard lino floor. My brother was crying softly.
Then the lights came on.
I looked up and saw the hard bright triumph in my mother’s eyes. She would die believing God had fixed the fuse. (p. 5)

Carey masterfully uses a tense nighttime setting and situation (lights going out in a storm) to show different family members’ personalities. The mother’s response is to turn to her faith, the father’s to think of practical matters like finding fuse-wires to fix the lights.

The stormy nighttime setting provides a dramatic backdrop to the action, giving both the cause for the situation and the mood of the scene.

How do you describe place? Infographic | Now Novel

4. Show how characters feel about your setting

Story settings affect and alter characters’ moods and states of mind, just as places affect our own. Learning how to describe a place thus means, in part, learning how to describe places so that they reveal characters’ desires, interests, fears and more.

Bring your character’s personalities, passions and histories to bear on the setting details they notice and describe.

We often return to this example because it’s an effective description of setting and the feelings it evokes:

124 was spiteful. Full of a baby’s venom. The women in the house knew it and so did the children. For years each put up with the spite in his own way, but by 1873 Sethe and her daughter Denver were its only victims. (p. 3)

This is the opening to Toni Morrison’s Beloved (1987), describing the haunted quality of her protagonist Sethe’s family home. Morrison immediately creates a sense of feeling in her setting description. Describing her characters as ‘victims’ of the house makes it clear it is a place of trauma and suffering.

Morrison continues to convey the character of place brilliantly:

The grandmother, Baby Suggs, was dead, and the sons, Howard and Buglar, had run away by the time they were thirteen years old – as soon as merely looking in a mirror shattered it (that was the signal for Buglar); as soon as two tiny hand prints appeared in the cake (that was it for Howard). (p. 3)

Morrison lists interesting, mysterious details about the haunted air of 124, and the different details of place that are the final straws for individual members of Sethe’s family.

Overall, the effect of her place description is to create a sense of hostility and ‘unhomeliness’. We have a clear sense of the emotions place produces or reawakens.

5. Keep setting description relevant to the story

Often writers starting out try to describe every little detail in painstaking detail. Others describe everything in broad generalizations. Each have pros and drawbacks. The advantages of detailed place description are:

  • Vivid visuals: We see more of the setting in our mind’s eye
  • Authenticity: Details often create a sense of reality. For example, if the rooms of a house have different light, objects, curiosities

The cons of detailed description are that it can slow narrative pace and clutter your prose.

Being too broad and abstract has its own cons, however. If you describe a high street, for example, and say ‘The shops all have lavish window displays’, we don’t see any difference between them.

It’s often best to balance a little relevant detail here and there with broad description elsewhere to give both the specific qualities and the general feeling of a place.

What is relevant setting description?

It’s description that is:

  • Relevant to impending events: E.g. Including an object that will be used in a scene, such as a murder weapon
  • Revealing about place or character: For example, if a character’s bedroom is messy it tells us something about their personality (that they’re lazy, perhaps, or merely busy or chaotic)
  • Worth mentioning: Beginning writers often include unnecessary descriptions such as ‘she walked across the lounge and headed to her bedroom’. It’s more concise to simply say, ‘She went to her bedroom’

Example of relevant setting description

In his novel Love in the Time of Cholera (1985), Gabriel Garcia Marquez describes Dr. Juvenal Urbino as one of the most respected men in the Carribean town where the story takes place.

Here is description of the doctor’s arrival at a party in the middle of a storm:

In the chaos of the storm Dr. Juvenal Urbino, along with the other late guests whom he had met on the road, had great difficulty reaching the house, and like them he wanted to move from the carriage to the house by jumping from stone to stone across the muddy patio, but at last he had to accept the humiliation of being carried by Don Sancho’s men under a yellow canvas canopy. (p. 34)

This is a simple, effective example of relevant setting description because:

  • Marquez uses how a character interacts with his challenge-ridden setting (the mud and the wet) to reveal character. Because the doctor is so respected he is carried, but he is also ‘humiliated’ by this, showing his proud nature
  • The setting description focuses on the key transition that sets up the next scenes – people’s arrival for a luncheon to commemorate the silver anniversary of Urbino’s colleague’s graduation

6. Make a list of adjectives to describe your story locations

Learning how to describe a place means also broadening your vocabulary with words that capture setting. There are so many adjectives to describe an ‘old’ building, for example. Each of the following terms describe age, yet with different shades of meaning:

  • Ancient: Belonging to the very distant past (OED)
  • Anachronistic: Belonging or appropriate to an earlier period, especially so as to seem conspicuously old-fashioned (OED)
  • Prehistoric: (Informal) Very old or out of date (OED)
  • Archaic: Very old or old-fashioned (OED)
  • Venerable: Accorded a great deal of respect, especially because of age, wisdom, or character (OED)

Even if you don’t use every word you find, this exercise will help you pinpoint the mood of a place. Think about elements such as a place’s:

  • Age
  • Mood
  • Atmosphere
  • Size
  • Appeal

Find adjectives that convey these qualities in a way that make place more specific. ‘Venerable’, for example, suggests respect that comes with age as described above. ‘Decrepit’, by contrast, suggests falling apart and ugly with age.

Source: nownovel.com

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Writing and Real Life: Juggling Your Time

I spent 20 years in the military — the U.S. Air Force. And during that time I learned a lot of things. One thing they stressed was time management. When Uncle Sam says a project needs to be done by a certain date, it better be! If you weren’t good at time management, it meant you stayed after duty hours to work on the project. If you had good skills, you went home when everyone else did. Somehow I managed to be in the latter group.

Now that I’m “retired,” I think I work harder than I did on active duty. I may not leave the property, which is 100 acres, but I stay busy from sun up to well past sundown. My morning starts by being nudged out of bed by several large dogs wanting to go potty and have breakfast. Yes, they eat first. Once I’m dressed, it’s grab my milk bucket and egg basket and hike 200 yards to the barn. There, the pig, goats, horses, chickens, ducks, turkeys, and barn dogs get fed in their appropriate order. The horses are turned out in their paddocks, the goats in theirs, and the ones needing milking get milked. I do the “morning shift” Monday through Saturday — unless we have enough eggs, and then I go to the local farmers market to set up and sell eggs and books. My hubby takes care of Sundays because that’s my “day off” in which I do all the housework and laundry. There is no sleeping in when you own a farm!

It takes me about two hours to get the barn chores done. After I get home, it’s processing milk, and if I have to make cheese that day, getting the milk in the pot. Breakfast happens sometime during that flurry of work. I get 30 minutes (maybe!) to eat while the milk cultures. Then it’s adding rennet, cutting and cooking the curds, prepping the cheese form, and getting it all put together in the press.

By now, it’s around 2-3 pm. Lunchtime. I grab something quick and sit down at my computer hoping for no malfunctions or disturbances that will keep me from putting words on screen. Of course there always are: dogs wanting to go outside, someone stopping by to purchase eggs, and phone calls from telemarketers (which I am extremely adept at hanging up on!). Some days I get 50 words written. I hate those days; they’re downright frustrating.

If it’s harvest time, there’s no writing, just long hours in the hayfields getting enough to last us through the winter months. You’d be amazed at how much time it takes to get 1,000 bales made and into the loft. The work is fast and furious because you never know when Mother Nature will decide to rain on your harvest.

More often, the evenings promise better quiet writing time. The dogs have full tummies and are usually napping, unless of course, a deer decides to come down and eat apples from the tree across the street. That means eight dogs-a-barking and me getting up to close the curtains so they can’t see. I return to my seat and try to pick up where I left off. If I’m lucky, I’ll manage several hundred words and also work on my language lesson. Trying to learn a foreign language for the sake of a single character in a book might seem absurd, but if you’re a stickler for authenticity like I am…

Bedtime is around 10 pm. By then, I’m brain-fried from trying to keep up with everything going on that day. I have a mental checklist running in my head to ensure everything needing to be done that day was accomplished. Did I remember to feed and water the baby chicks in the guest bedroom brooder? Oh, yes, I did that right after dinner dishes. Did I flip the cheese in the press? And did I remember to put the cheese drying in my office back in the fridge overnight?

When you live where you work, the days become one big blur. Is it Wednesday or is it Thursday? Um, nope, it’s Friday. Hey, wait, where’d the week go? Weekends and holidays are irrelevant. The animals need tending 365 days a year. There are no vacations and no days off. Most people don’t understand that.

Somehow, through all the chaos I still manage to do what I love most: writing. Sure enough as I’m sitting here writing this post, it’s pouring rain outside and one of the dogs is whining because she’s hungry. The hay crop will be waiting a little longer, but in time it’ll be ready. Until then, I relish every moment I get to put words on my screen.

Next time I’ll talk about techniques I use to get those words down.

By
Source: indiesunlimited.com

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Staying Relevant As An Author

For many writers, the day comes when you think, hey, this is more than a hobby. More time goes by and you decide, you know what? This writing thing is serious business.

You put yourself on some kind of schedule and you decide you’re gonna be disciplined if it kills you. You might get close to all out catatonia as you balance work, family and your writing regimen, but you stay the course and begin to release books.

Without a promotion drive, those books will sputter and sales fizzle. Exposure is critical when you’re unknown and trying to build a readership.

The internet provides unlimited research material that helps us to decide what to do and how to find the best deals.

  • Say you need book covers? Fiverr has a host of cover artists that provide service starting at – you guessed it – five dollars. Be warned, that you’re hardly likely to get anything for that price, so be prepared to spend more.
  • Need a blog tour host? Google is your go-to unit and if you want to get close and personal, Facebook is a great place to find people who provide this kind of service. Type in book promotion or cover art and potential sellers will pop up.
  • Looking for someone to run your promotions or host a book release party? Use any search engine or Facebook. Your writing buddies are also a source for checking out service providers.
  • Want to find book clubs to expand your base of readers? Facebook is a good source as well.
  • Have people who like reading your books? Start a group on whatever platform you like best and encourage them to share your work and add others to the team.
  • Include a free book as a gift for joining your mailing list.
  • Last, but by no means least, this website is a powerhouse of materials on every aspect of the publishing world, so make use of it.

Gone are the days when we can afford to keep our nose to the grindstone and ignore the reading public until we have a new book for sale. It’s not necessarily the best writers who have repeat readers, but those who find a way to keep themselves relevant and in front of those who are buying books.

Have you made the decision to take your publishing efforts to the next level? Are doing enough marketing? What has worked well for you in selling books?

Source: insecurewriterssupportgroup.com

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How to Get Past Excuses and Finish Your Writing!

Do you struggle with finishing? Believe me, I’ve been there.

Perseverance has never really been my thing.

I was the one in school that could easily write papers, finish assignments, and obtain excellent grades with very little effort.

But as soon as something difficult came along, I would give up. Any iota of resistance would stop me in my tracks.

Sound familiar?

In 2008, I decided to write a book.

I was fairly young and had absolutely no clue what I was doing, but I managed to eke out a completed manuscript. It took me about a year to figure out what I wanted to write about and get past the first page, then another year to complete the first draft. It was hard, but fun-hard, and I loved it.

Then the editing began.

And it was just plain hard-hard. I didn’t want to do it. I wanted to crawl in a hole, pay someone vast sums of money to edit it for me, then have a bunch of people pay me thousands of dollars to read my perfect words.

Sounds like a dream, right?

But here’s the thing: it’s not that easy.

Though I labored over the manuscript for eight years (eight years!) through multiple revisions and changes and got absolutely frustrated with how long it seemed to be taking, the time spent was absolutely necessary to the process. I was honing my manuscript, discovering what it was meant to be, similar to Michelangelo sculpting David:

“Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.” Michelangelo

My book was inside me; I just needed to write it. Even though it wasn’t what I first wrote (or even what I wrote second or third), eventually the story was exactly what it was supposed to be.

I had people telling me I wouldn’t ever finish it, had my own voice inside my head telling me it wasn’t worth the hard work, had family who wouldn’t read a single word.

Yet I managed to keep going—the person who would never stick with anything—and somehow ended up with a completed manuscript.

But it wasn’t by accident, and it doesn’t have to be for you, either.

So how did I get past all the excuses I made up in my head and the doubts others threw my way to stick with it until it was done?

I stopped letting the negativity and the doubts take hold in my mind, taught myself to follow these five excuse-eliminating tenets, and finally stepped into the writer I was meant to be.

  1. Believe in Yourself and the Work Only You Can Do

Even though it sounds cheesy, a strong belief that I was given this story and needed to get it out into the world helped me through many hard days. If you have a passion for writing, don’t let other people or excuses you make up rob you and the world of your voice. Somewhere, someone needs to hear what you have to say in the way only you can say it.

Be brave, and believe in yourself and your work.

  1. Let Go of What Others Think About You

I know this is a hard one, but too often we give in to the opinions that others speak into our lives. When we do this, when we let this poison enter our minds, we eventually find ourselves living lives we don’t recognize. Show love to others, but don’t let their opinions of who you should be dig roots in your mind.

Only you truly know who you should be. So live YOUR best life.

  1. Give Up Your Feelings of Inadequacy

You are enough. Just you. Hone your craft, develop it like any other muscle, but you are a writer the moment you write a single word. Don’t let anyone—most importantly, yourself—convince you otherwise.

  1. Write Even When You Don’t Feel Like It

There will be minutes, hours, days, weeks, and months you won’t feel like writing. Do it anyway. You won’t get any better by not writing. The book won’t get done any quicker, either. I wish I would’ve taken this to heart sooner!

  1. Learn as Much as You Can

Writing may feel like a lonely profession, but there are scores of writers on social media and in your community who you can connect with to develop a network of like-minded people. Learn as much as you can from each other. Learn the craft, the community, the best practices, take the courses and then… learn how to break the rules. That’s my favorite part.

Have you let the excuses you make up in your head hold you back from completing that blog post, that manuscript, that series? Have you listened to the voices of others telling you you’ll never finish?

Resolve today to give up that mindset, ignore those lies, and step into the truth that you are a writer, you are enough, and you have a story that the world needs to hear.

By Bryan Hutchinson
Source: positivewriter.com

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How to Write Mythology for Fantasy and Science Fiction

Most writers probably don’t appreciate enough how much of an impact mythology has on our modern-day storytelling. No matter what genre you write in, mythology has played some role in shaping it, even if you don’t realise it.

It stems all the way back to ancient times before written language was even invented when myths formed the first stories told around campfires. Each of the basic story types listed in Christopher Booker’s The Seven Basic Plots can trace their origin back to ancient myths somehow. Homer’s Odyssey is a literal ‘voyage and return’ story. Most of the Arthurian legends center on a knight going out on a quest then returning to Camelot for their reward. In a sense, we are still adapting and building upon the stories invented by our ancestors.

But mythology does much more than just inspiring stories. It also gives books more substance and expands the fictional worlds of speculative fiction.

Why mythology in stories is important

Myths have inspired much more than just stories. They have influenced everything from the names we give to planets to the morals we pass down to children.

It makes sense that since mythology makes up an important part of our real-world culture, it should also be an important part of world-building or fiction writing as well. Adding in a fictional mythology makes a created world more believable and makes a fictional story in a real-world setting more realistic.

Other genres won’t rely upon it quite as much, especially contemporary fiction, but it can be useful there too. Ancient stories which stand the test of time can provide writing prompts or inspiration. Modern-day adaptations of old fairy tales or folk legends may have been done a lot, but there is still a lot of original ideas you can get from them, particularly if you choose a story that isn’t quite as well known. The Golem and the Djinni did this well by taking two completely unrelated and lesser-seen mythological creatures and placing them together in late 19th-century New York.

It is probably even more important in science-fiction than it is in fantasy. A story taking place across multiple planets means there will be even more cultures with their own mythologies to explore, and even more which have shaped and influenced the world and the species which inhabit it. If an alien race seems bland or unrealistic, it might well be because they don’t have any mythology or sense of history.

Good and bad examples

Terry Brook’s Shannara series is an example of mythology handled poorly. The world in this series has an interesting backstory; it is not a make-believe fantasy world but a post-apocalyptic future of our own world in which society has devolved to pre-modern life.

Yet the author doesn’t go nearly as far enough as he could have done with this concept. It could have had modern day stories become a part of the post-apocalyptic mythology, altered slightly to show how stories change as they are re-told over generations.

The Lord of the Rings would be a good example, probably because Tolkien extensively studied mythology and understood how it worked. In fact, he wrote his Middle Earth stories to give England its own mythology to rival the Greek or Roman myths. Not only are his works heavily inspired by many different works of mythology, they have their own sets of legends to expand upon the world, which makes Middle Earth feel incredibly old. There are already historical events so old that they have become myth. There are statues lying half-crumbled in the ground. The characters sing songs and tell each other stories of their own race’s folklore. It is all part of what makes Middle Earth seem so real and inviting, and a major reason why his books are so beloved and influential decades after they were written.

How to work mythology into your writing

In speculative fiction, mythology doesn’t need to be on the forefront of your make-believed world, but it should be at least partially important in some way.

There are many creative ways that you can work it in:

  • An old legend might hold a clue to the main character’s quest or motivate the hero when they need it.
  • Finding out that a myth is actually true.
  • Solving the mystery of an old story.
  • Discovering ancient ruins.
  • Characters telling stories from their homelands to each other.

Stories set in the far future can greatly benefit from having their own mythology, perhaps even using modern-day stories or real-life figures distorted over time to become legends. This can really help to give the futuristic setting a sense of place and time and make the futuristic setting more believable.

Even in contemporary fiction, mythology can be used to great effect. Your main character’s favorite fairy tale or the story they loved most in childhood can say a lot about them and might have influenced their personality or moral character. Or your character’s own favorite story can give them inspiration when they need it, just as they do to us in real life.

No matter what genre you are writing, the way you exposit these myths will be important. If it is a widely known myth such as Hercules or King Arthur then the readers will need little if any explanation, since they are already such an integral part of our culture that most people at least know the basics about them. If you choose a story or figure which isn’t quite as well known then you will need some exposition, so long as it doesn’t go overboard.

Writing your own mythology

If you are writing a speculative fiction story, one of the best parts of worldbuilding isn’t just crafting the world of your story but also inventing an entirely new set of myths and legends for however many races or cultures exist in the world of your book. Essentially, you can write stories within stories.

But it is difficult, especially when you are putting so much time and energy into constructing the main story, so many authors skip it and leave their fictional world feeling empty.

This doesn’t mean that you have to spend hours on it or devote pages of exposition to explaining these myths. But the more attention you do give to worldbuilding, the more realistic and tangible your fictional world will feel, especially if you have given attention to its mythology.

Expositing fictional myths should be done like the example given above – only when it is needed without going overboard. An entire chapter of characters sitting around a campfire and telling stories can provide an important moment of character and relationship building, but the stories they tell should become relevant at some point later in the story.

But how exactly do you write mythology in a world which is already fantastical? Just as with most other parts of world-building, taking clues from real world mythologies is an excellent starting point.

This goes far beyond copy-pasting the Greek or Roman myths and changing the names around. It means looking at the types of stories and characters that make up mythology and their significance in the real world.

To make up your own myths, ask yourselves these questions:

  • What is the creation myth?
  • Is there a pantheon of Gods or just one?
  • Who are the key figures and inspirational heroes in these stories?
  • What are your world’s constellations?
  • What do they think causes phenomena such as the Aurora Beorialis?
  • What role does magic play in these myths?
  • Are there any people who still worship the mythological pantheon, the way neo-pagans do?

Don’t take your clues only from the most popular myths. Look into less common mythologies or stories which aren’t talked about as often outside of their own cultures, such as Aboriginal mythology or the Finnish Kalevala. Fantasy races such as elves and dwarves stem from European mythology, but races inspired by other continent’s myths would be entirely different, and much more original and creative.

Again, like real myths, fictional myths might play by different rules. Our own myths often include magic or direct divine intervention which don’t exist in reality, so your fictional myths might also bend the rules of the universe you are creating. You could even turn this into a plot point, such as characters discovering that the magic in their old stories isn’t fictional like they previously thought.

Writing mythology into a story, especially a work of speculative fiction, may be a headache, but it will be one of the most valuable pieces of worldbuilding and characterization in your entire story. You may well become just as fascinated with writing your fictional world’s mythology as you are with creating the world and story itself, or find yourself with a set of mythology you never previously knew about for inspiration.

By Jessica Wood
Source: refiction.com

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How to Write When You Work Full Time

I love that today’s theme comes from a newsletter subscriber who responded when I asked for ideas to address on the podcast or in articles. So this is a real writer with a real struggle—a reality for many writers.

This person wants to know:

How to write when you work full time?

That’s a tough one. It’s hard to have any kind of hobby or side hustle when you work full-time. When you put in the hours at work and come home exhausted, how can you possibly devote your depleted brain and energy to a creative project?

Don’t Ignore the Ache

I stayed home to raise our four children and we chose to home educate, so while I didn’t work full-time in a traditional sense, I had my hands full most hours of the day. Writing was extremely challenging during those years.

My dream was to have an entire day at my disposal, no interruptions, no diapers to change, no activities to organize. But that wasn’t the overall lifestyle we’d chosen. I thought if I couldn’t have the day to write—and if, in fact, my reality felt like I had NO time to write—why bother?

But I couldn’t ignore the ache. I ached to write.

Some days I felt hopeless. Some days I felt sorry for myself and didn’t bother even trying. Most days I wanted that all-or-nothing writing life.

So a lot of days I didn’t write. After all, I didn’t feel like I had the energy; or if I started, I’d only be interrupted. Why try?

But that ache wore on.

Address the Ache

I couldn’t go on like that. I had to address the ache. I suspect that’s where a lot of writers are—maybe the person who sent in this idea for a podcast.

You’re feeling the ache, that soul-ulcer chewing away at your creative impulse. You’re losing hope.

How do you write when you work full time?

Assuming you can’t quit, I hope you’re feeling something else rise up in you—something louder and stronger than the ache.

Voice It

It’s a voice, a determination within. A resolve.

You have something inside of you that must be voiced.

A barbaric yawp you’re ready to sound over the roofs of the world.

I. Must. Write.

That’s it.

You must write.

Yes, there’s writing in you, ready for the page. You can’t wait any longer.

There’s a writer in you, ready to yawp, and you know it. You can’t wait for the perfect conditions. You can’t wait until you inherit some distant relative’s fortune so you can quit your job.

No more waiting.

You must sound your yawp over the roofs of the world.

You must write.

Today.

Look for slivers of time and the occasional chunk of time here or there. Settle for less than the dream of a cabin in the woods. Whatever you can, grab it and write a few lines.

Where Will You Write?

Let me tell you a story.

Joseph Michael developed a Scrivener training course while he was working full time at another job. Scrivener is writing software, also an app, that many authors use because with it, you can manage longer, larger, more complex projects more easily than you can using Word or Google docs.

But Scrivener is a little confusing to most newbies; at least it was for me. So I grabbed his training course years ago when it was on sale and started watching, hoping to avoid bumbling around, losing important pieces of projects. I felt frustrated because I didn’t understand the system, so I walked through his short training lectures and made sense of Scrivener.

Years later, because of the success of his Scrivener course, Joseph Michael came out with some additional training on how to build courses—a course about courses. I didn’t buy the course about courses, but I signed up for a free introductory webinar, where he told how he recorded that early version of the Scrivener course.

He said he’d drive to work. On his lunch break, he’d head to the parking garage and record some of the Scrivener lessons—right there in the front seat of his car, wedged behind the steering wheel. In short sessions, hidden away in the parking garage of his workplace, he grabbed the only free time he had to himself and, over time, created the course.

He did that for as long as it took, lesson after lesson.

Would it have been more efficient if he’d recorded them all at once in one week in a studio?

Sure.

Did he have the time and money to invest in creating or renting a studio at that time?

No.

He realized he had a few minutes at lunch time, and instead of feeling sorry for himself or waiting for perfect conditions, he fit in those tiny recording sessions and trusted they would stack up over time. And they did.

Just as paragraphs will add up for any writer who realizes he or she has a few minutes at lunch in the parking garage.

I hope that picture of a man driven to create something, using the open time slot he found in his schedule, inspires you to find your own slot of time to do your work, to write—to yawp! Even if it takes ten times longer than you’d like, eventually you’ll get it done.

Find Your Quiet Writing Space

In an interview on The Creative Nonfiction Podcast with Brendan O’Meara, Andre Dubus III said years ago, when his kids were little, he was working on a novel. They had a tiny apartment, he was teaching at four or five campuses as an adjunct writing professor, remodeling houses as a carpenter, and sleeping only four or five hours a night.

Determined to write that novel, he’d wake up at five in the morning, drive to a graveyard not far from his house, park there, and write. He wrote longhand in an notebook.

After about 17 minutes, he had to stop and drive to work as a teacher and carpenter. On the way back, he’d stop at the graveyard once more and write for another 17 minutes. Longhand. In a notebook.

That’s it. All he could find was a total of 34 minutes of writing time per day, split into two 17-minute sessions.

He decided not to wish for ideal circumstances and wait. Instead, he decided to write. And day after day, he drove to the graveyard and wrote.

“After three years,” he said, “I had 22 notebooks, filled.”

In those twice-a-day 17-minute writing sessions, he crafted the beginning, middle, and end of a novel that would become The House of Sand and Fog, the novel that put him on the map.

“So at the height of our young, struggling family life, I was able to write an entire novel,” he said. “Anyone can do it. You don’t need all day.”

Audit Your Schedule: Where, When, How Long, How Often

Audit your current schedule. Find a time, no matter how tiny, you can commit to becoming your writing session.

Figure out where you’re going to write, when you’re going to write, how long and how often.

Where? Find your parking lot or your graveyard. Maybe it’s a back porch or a cafe or a library.

When? Carve out your lunch hour to create or write before heading off to work all day.

How long? Will it be 30 minutes on that lunch break? Seventeen minutes before you head to work? Can you find an hour slot in the evening when you’re currently watching a TV show?

How often or how frequently will you pull it off? Will you write every day of the work week? Or are your weekends more free and every Saturday you can commit to a writing session?

Find where you’re going to write, when you’re going to write, how long and how often.

Then do it.

To write when you work full time, you embrace the limitations and stop looking at the time not available and find time that is available.

Do an audit of your weekly schedule, find some bits and snatches—if you’re lucky, you’ll find a chunk of time here and there.

Devote those time slots to writing.

Two-Month Experiment

Try it for two months. When you first begin, it’ll feel like the entire universe is conspiring to keep you from getting to the library with your notebook and pen.

Eventually, though, the universe will adjust. And most Saturdays when you get to your cubicle in the back, over by the biographies, where it’s quiet, you’ll be able to write. Whether it’s ten minutes, two hours, or an entire morning, you’ll write.

Do that as often as possible, and you will be a writer. You will chip away at your work in progress. You will sound your yawp over the roofs of the world.

You must write. No more waiting.

There’s a writer in you ready to yawp, and you know it. So don’t wait. You must write.

Source:annkroeker.com

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