Thursday, July 19, 2012

GUEST BLOGGER JOCELYN GREEN: Stop the Clock! Ten Tips for Time-Starved Writers (and Giveaway!!)

Hi, Julie here, and every now and then, you meet another author with whom you click like the snap of your fingers. I don't know, maybe it's the smile, the sparkle in the personality or just an innate kindness, but the minute I met Jocelyn Green online, I knew we were destined for that kind of friendship. And then I read her book, Wedded to War, and fell in love with the author as well as the person. Hands-down one of the best researched historical romance novels I've read on the Civil War to date, Jocelyn not only captures your breath with heart-wrenching historical detail, but your heart as well with a tender love story that will steal you away. It's my pleasure to introduce my good friend and award-winning author, freelance writer and military wife and mom, Jocelyn Green:
Stop the Clock! Ten Tips for Time-Starved Writers
by Jocelyn Green 
I should have known better. But when the local reporter came to interview me about my newly released novel, Wedded to War, I told her that my kids, ages 3 and 6, would be home with us, but that they “knew how to stay quiet.”
Can you guess how that interview went? Let’s just say that by the end of it, the reporter shifted her line of questioning from the Civil War inspiration to: “This is your fifth book since I was here last time. How do you write with two little kids running around?”
Great question! I’m practically starved for writing time most of the year, and if you have a family or a job or some desire to do anything other than write, I know you can relate.
I do have one writer friend who, when a book deadline approaches, packs up and heads to her cabin in the mountains for weeks at a time to just get ‘er done. How nice for her.
But since we can’t all have the cabins of our dreams, and the time to use them, what’s a writer to do?
The only answer is to maximize the time that we do have. Here are ten tips I’ve picked up over the past several years.
1) Write without editing yourself. (Yet.)
I was an editor before I wrote any books. But when I let my editor’s brain take over my writer’s brain, I played a mental tug-of-war on the page, rewriting a scene (or even—dare I say it?—a single paragraph) several times and not making any actual progress on the word count in a given day.
Since then I learned that we write with one side of our brain, and we edit with the other side. So don’t try to do both at once. Just write the thing first. You can edit later.
In Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott says:
“Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere. Start by getting something—anything—down on paper. A friend of mine says that the first draft is the down draft—you just get it down. The second draft is the up draft—you fix it up. You try to say what you have to say more accurately. And the third draft is the dental draft, where you check every tooth, to see if it’s loose or cramped or decayed, or even, God help us, healthy.”
I have gone through more than three drafts, I’m sure, but that’s beside the point. The point is—get it down. Editing slows the process in the initial stage.
2) Don’t do the laundry.
At least, not during your writing time. Writing from home, it’s so tempting to “just throw in one load.” But if you put a load in the washer, you’ll probably want to put it into the dryer. And if you put it in the dryer, chances are, you’ll want to fold the clothes before they wrinkle. The interruptions pile up faster than the laundry.
The same concept goes for washing the dishes, dusting, etc. It might seem like just a few quick minutes to straighten up, but if it’s taking away from your writing time—and more importantly, from your focus—it’s not allowed. I read somewhere that after every interruption, it takes about 20 minutes to get fully back into the groove of your previous momentum. I can’t cite this source, and I’m not sure how they did this study, but it feels true enough, or close enough to the truth, for me to ruthlessly squelch the urge to do just a tiny chore during writing time.
3) Set goals.
And make them just beyond what you think you can achieve. Whether you try to hit a word count or write a certain number of scenes per day, aim for something. If you’re at a loss in this area, the book 90 Days to Your Novel spells out all the daily goals for you. You can adjust the timeframe as you see fit.
4) Write “as the bullets fly.”
I’m stealing this phrase from Pamela Redmond Satran in a recent article she wrote in this month’s Writer’s Digest. She shares how after she had a baby, she waited until the quiet moments of nap time or after bedtime to write, but it was never enough. Then, she had an epiphany. She says:
“Forget about waiting for the quiet moment alone in the pristine room: I was never going to get that again, at least not for a long time. And so rather than stealing writing time in my office, I moved my laptop to the living room. Instead of writing late at night or early in the morning before my child woke up, I started doing it while she was right there. I wrote while I watched the 802nd viewing of Cinderella. . . ”
And the pages added up.
This is something I am learning to do right now. My “office” (aka laptop) now travels with me to the playroom, the family room, and the backyard. I use to access the files and email on my desktop computer.
5) Be anti-social.
When you’re up against a deadline, shut down your email, turn off Facebook, Twitter, etc. One writer I know deactivates her Facebook profile when she’s writing, and reactivates it once she’s done. If you really can’t go totally dark, tell yourself you will only do social media during one (or two) designated small slots of time a day.
6) Write when you’re fresh.
If you do your best writing in the morning, don’t whittle away that time responding to emails. Write first. The emails can usually wait. I used to tell myself I could write in the evenings, but I’m so exhausted by the end of the day, one hour in the morning is worth three hours at night!
7) Get up earlier.
Hey, I’m not a morning person either, but I found that by getting up at 5am instead of when my kids get up at 7, I can double the amount of writing time I usually get in a day. Amazing!
8)  Skip writer’s block.
If you have trouble writing a certain scene, skip it and move on to something else you can get into. You can always go back to that trouble spot later and fill it in. Just keep writing.
9) Create time.
What can you delegate to others to free up more writing time for yourself? Would it be worth it to have a maid service come in so you can use that time to write?
Child care is always a dilemma when they are young. I hired a babysitter (make that seven babysitters—long story) last summer. This summer I am bribing them. If they are good in the morning, we go bowling or to the water park in the afternoon. I’m also trying to write as the bullets fly! If they are too young for this to work, you might want to find another mom and swap kids a couple times a week.
The other relentless time-consuming issue is meal preparation. I don’t want to spend hours in the kitchen before and after we eat dinner, but I also don’t want to resort to fast food or take-out. So I make meals ahead of time and stock the freezer with them. Check out the book Don’t Panic! Dinner’s In the Freezer for plenty of recipes.
10) Pray.
This is the easiest thing to do, and so important. Before your fingers touch the keyboard, pray. Pray that God will give you focus, clarity, creativity, whatever it is you most need on that day. And ask others to join you! Many writers, myself included, have a prayer team supporting them throughout their writing project. Or just ask a few trusted friends for prayer on a more spontaneous basis. I cannot even count the number of times I have asked friends to pray, and then within days (sometimes within hours) that specific request was answered above and beyond my expectations and hopes.

Stories are powerful. Jesus used them (parables) to communicate profound truths. Why not pray that God will help us tell the story He wants us to tell, the way He wants us to tell it, and that He would help us do it before our deadline? If he could feed the five thousand from two loaves of bread and five fish, He can help us make the most of our writing time.
GIVEAWAY!!! How do you make the most of your writing time? Leave a comment telling us how or just leave a comment and you will be entered in our drawing today for a signed copy of Wedded to War.

ABOUT JOCELYN GREEN: Jocelyn is an award-winning author and freelance writer. A former military wife, she authored, along with contributing writers, Faith Deployed: Daily Encouragement for Military Wives and Faith Deployed ... Again: More Daily Encouragement for Military Wives. Jocelyn also co-authored Stories of Faith and Courage from the War in Iraq & Afghanistan, which won the Gold Medal from the Military Writers Society of America in 2010, and Stories of Faith and Courage from the Home Front, which inspired her first novel, Wedded to War. She loves Mexican food, Broadway musicals, Toblerone chocolate bars, the color red, and reading on her patio. Jocelyn lives with her husband Rob and two small children in Cedar Falls, Iowa. 

You can contact Jocelyn at her websites at and


  1. Yay! First comment. :-D

    Oh, how I needed this post. So many common sense suggestions and encouraging to boot. Thank you for the virtual kick to the seat of my writing pants. (Pun intended.)

    I'm just OCD enough to not have allowed myself to skip ahead when I'm stuck on a scene, but now that you've given me permission...look out.

    No need to enter me in the drawing. I have a copy of Wedded to War in my TBR pile. I'm looking foward to reading it soon.

  2. Thanks for joining us in Seekerville, Jocelyn!

    Love, love, love your "Stop the Clock" tips. All so good.

    Getting the first draft on paper is key, as you mentioned. Otherwise I can write and rewrite that first paragraph--even that first line--a million times.

    Congrats on your non-fiction books and your award from the Military Writers Society of America!

    Wedded to War looks fantastic!

    I'm an army wife...sending military wife hugs and a warm welcome!

  3. Thanks for the tips, Jocelyn. It's fun to see your writing spaces. Especially like the outside patio.

    As far as my writing time, I'm in a go with the flow stage right now. Normally I carve out a specific time of day, but recently my life hasn't been my own. Still, I manage to meet my goals, only by the grace of God!

  4. JOCELYN!!

    Thrilled to see you in Seekerville this morning.

    Congratulations on the book. Looks marvelous... Please sign me up for the drawing!

    As you know, I'm a real fan of Faith Deployed(s) already... :)

    Thanks for making yourself available to be used by the Lord in this ministry. And being a rockin' wife and mom!

    I ask people to pray also, and have to just sit down and write. Once I start, I love it... It's a matter of getting the rest of the "stuff" I fill my brain with out of my head so I can concentrate. Also started using a timer to keep me focused until I'm fully in the zone, then... not so much.

    All this being said - just finished 2nd rounds of edits from editor and have submitted to another editor (in local writer's group) for her ideas/comments/critique. Yep - about 23 hours ago. *yawn*

    It's about ready for the illustrator!


  5. I have "plenty" of time--and I waste it. I'm the Too Stupid to Live Heroine.


    Off to work.

  6. Hi Jocelyn

    I am curious: does Charlotte Waverly run into Walt Whitman who was also a Civil War nurse. Did you read Whitman’s account of being a nurse? ”The Wound Dresser A Series of Letters Written from the Hospitals in Washington during the War of the Rebellion”

    My time theory is that the less time you have to write, the more you value that time. When you have all the time in the world to write, then almost anything else you have to do will take priority. (This is a variation of the idea that the best person to get something done is an already busy person.)

    What do you think? If you were free to write eight hours a day, but no one was making you write, how many more books would you have written during the time you wrote your five books?

    I love your idea of “Letting the Bullets Fly”. You have to do that when you write retail advertising with daily deadlines. You just do it no matter how much chaos is going on around you. I just had not thought about doing this in a home environment. I also have not seen this on any other list.

    Great post. Very helpful.


    P.S. I’d love to win a copy of your book if it is available as an eBook. (I need the large type.)
    Vmres (at) swbell (dot) net

  7. Melissa~

    If your too stupid to live, there's no hope for me!


    Your don't do the laundry tip sounds a lot like "If you give a mouse a cookie..." I'd know our kids were near in age even if you didn't say so.

    I'm finding prayer is key. I pray almost word for word what you said. These stories are not mine. They're God's, so I ask him to use my fingers to write them.

    I have Wedded to War on my phone, but I'd be tickled pink if I won a print copy.

    andeemarie95 at gmail dot com

  8. Hi, Jocelyn,

    I really cannot imagine writing productively with little ones around. My kids are older so I often find alone time.

    Funny, when I get stuck on a scene, I go do a load of laundry or the dishes. I can almost always figure out what I'm supposed to do next when my hands are in the suds.


  9. Hi Jocelyn,

    My big one is just get the bad first draft down. If you look through my first draft there's even XXXX in places where in the moment I can't quite grab the word I'm looking for!

    Writing in scenes has been the breakthrough for me. For some reason my brain isn't at all linear when it comes to writing and I found I wasted so much time trying to force myself to write beginning to end when often I would sit down and the scene burning in my brain would be somewhere further in the ms. Of course that can make for an interesting time trying to stitch it all together in the end!


  10. Oh I meant to say don't enter me - I already have your book in my TBR pile. Looking forward to it!

  11. Thank you for the great post! My one child is older than your two, but he does like to any tip to find extra time is helpful! I would like to be in the drawing for your book--it sounds great!


  12. Great and timely post since I'm off this summer and finding it hard to stay on task with everything else in the house and garden distracting me.

    One thing I've done though is keep the same rise and shine time (5:00 a.m.) because I'm definitely a morning writer. So I walk the dog then take an exercise walk with my Nordic poles to shake my brain awake, come in and have breakfast and blog surf until 7:00 when I start at it. Oops -- that means I have five minutes to get in the zone!

    Oh - and don't enter me in the draw as I have Wedded to War on order at my bookstore.

  13. Welcome, Jocelyn! Great tips for "making time" (which is what I'm doing up at 4 a.m. Pacific Time). You have to keep experimenting until you discover what works best for you and then make the most of it.

    Cedar Falls! That's where I went to college! :)

    Thank you, Jocelyn for sharing. My life happens in a very similar way - in fact the 'laptop at the table' is part of a vlog I just did. how funny?!?

    But those times do add up. Mine happen after work and late at night.

    And prayer is essential.

    Childcare issues? Yeah, go that too. How I LONG to have grandparents close by for little spurts of playtime with papa and nana.

    But God has placed us right where we are in the thick of an active life - thankfully He's also given us the ability to write in the midst of chaos :-)

    Thank you so much! Your books look amazing. I'm definitely going to try and find one.

  15. Hmmm... how do I make the most of my writing time? Well, since it's just a hobby, I write when I can during a day. Usually around early evening is when I'm able to focus the most.

    Thanks for the great giveaway! I'm really looking forward to reading this book. =)


  16. Such a timely post!!!

    Enter me in the drawing. Your book sounds wonderful.

    My children are older so I have the privilege of escaping behind a pair of headphones while they fend for themselves. ;)

  17. Jocelyn, great post! I have been struggling to find more time to write since starting a new job two months ago. Hours are different and I LOVE this job, so I often have a hard time getting my brain into writing mode when I finish for the day.

    What you said about doing chores is funny because I love doing laundry as I write. For some reason it makes me feel more productive and helps me focus more since I know I have small windows to work in. Bizarre, I know.

    Your book looks great and I'd love to read it do please throw me into the drawing!

    Stephludwig at hotmail dot com

  18. MORNIN', ALL and boy, aren't I the sludge today, rolling in at 7:30 AM ... Jocelyn would have my head, given her military influence!!

    Miss Joss will be here, guaranteed, popping in and out in what is going to be a "drop-and-give-me-fifty" type of crazy day for her ... but then she's used to "crazy" after you read this article," right???

    Well, I have "crank duty" today, which means I'm in charge of the mess hall with all the C-rations you care to eat -- a full chow bar with eggs on a raft, hardtack, mystery meat and choice of moo juice or mud ... or if the mud's been sitting too long, battery acid. So, come and get it!


  19. Good job, PRIVATE DEES -- first up this morning!! That's gotta be good for a promotion or two!!

    Ah, CLARI ... a fellow OCD-er -- I like that!! And I understand you won a book from me last week, so GOOD JOB, young lady!


  20. Jocelyn, welcome to Seekerville!

    OMG, I feel like such a slug compared to you...but then we shouldn't compare ourselves to others, right? Still, thinking back to when my kids were young, I cringe at the thought of trying to do anything productive while they were fighting, LOL!

    Jocelyn said: "Why not pray that God will help us tell the story He wants us to tell, the way He wants us to tell it, and that He would help us do it before our deadline? If he could feed the five thousand from two loaves of bread and five fish, He can help us make the most of our writing time."

    Why do we tend to forget this? God has a story for us to tell. He will help us tell it.

    No matter the distractions!!

    If we but ask.

    Thanks for joining us with your wonderful words of wisdom!

  21. I'm not an author but am an avid reader, so I make the most of my reading time but picking books I know I will enjoy and this looks like one of those books. Would love to win it.


  22. DEB!!! Wedded to War IS "fantastic," I guarantee you, giving you a side of the Civil War you don't see very often along with a tender love story. WONDERFUL BOOK!!

    LYNDEE ... "go with the flow" sounds pretty good to me, darlin', so good for you!! I wish I could go with the flow a wee bit more, but I am such an anal writer that I have trouble "flowing" unless everything is just right ... NOT a good scenario for someone on a deadline!!

    KC!!! GOOD FOR YOU, my friend, on finishing your edits -- hope they are the last on this piece!!


  23. Good morning, Jocelyn!
    Beautiful family picture there and your book sounds interesting!
    I'm no writer (professionally - yet) but I'm trying to cook up something and I definetely retained the part about just writing and not editing.
    Sometimes it can be so frustrating that you just feel like giving up...but then God uses the right words - and the right people to get you motivated.

    Thank you for this post.



  24. LOL, MELISSA ... "Too Stupid to Live Heroine." You??? ;) I don't think so, darlin'!

    Ooooo, VINCE!!! That would be SO very cool to incorporate Walt Whitman into this series! If I were Joss, I'd certainly consider it.

    ANDREA, AMEN!!! Prayer is key in everything we do, but as writers for God, ESPECIALLY with the books that we write!


  25. CHRISTINA SAID: "Funny, when I get stuck on a scene, I go do a load of laundry or the dishes."

    I agree, Christina -- I have to get away and do something else, but it's generally not "work" things like laundry or dishes. Reading a book in the powder room or the treadmill, maybe, but housework??? Cold chills!!

    KARA!!! LOVE the "xxxx"s idea, my friend -- too cute!! Kind of like little kisses in the middle of your story ... ;)


  26. Oh, PIPER ... a chatterbox, huh??? I know what you mean -- I have that with my hubby ... ;) But I just smile and nod and keep plotting in my head ... :) I wish!!

    KAV ... do you really still HAVE a garden after this drought of a summer??? Oh my, between the deer, the squirrels and he heat, my garden is toast ... literally!!

    ROSE ... short and sweet, girl -- just how I like 'em. Notice I didn't say "how I write 'em" ... :)


  27. Gosh, GLYNNA ... 4:00 AM??? You're making me both tired and guilty, girl!!

    LOL, PEP ... I figured if anybody would relate to Joss's post, it would be you, my friend -- you two remind me of each other. :)

    ELYSSA ... hobby today, career tomorrow, darlin'. That's how it starts, you know, before it takes you down ... :)


  28. BRIDGETT!!! You're a genius -- headphones!!! :)

    STEPH ... another author/laundress in our midst ... :)

    AUDRA!!! You? A slug??? Don't make me come down there, young lady!! I could NEVER do all you do in a day with a family and a full-time job and building a house to boot.


  29. Jocelyn, so glad to have you in Seekerville today!!!

    I’m so guilty of #2.

    At 3:15 pm yesterday, in the middle of working, I glanced at the clock and realized that the restless natives would be wanting food when they got home. Sigh.

    Or take a break and see the mound of clothes that needs to be washed. It definitely breaks my concentration.

    Where’s that cabin?!?!?

  30. How do I make the most of my writing time? Hmmm, I'd say I'm pretty much always writing something. If I have a spare minute, I'm at my computer. It's so thrilling to see a story come to life and watch as the characters grow and change. Yeah, I do my best to keep my head in the game....I guess that's the best I can do. hehe!


  31. This looks like such a good read! I hope I can get my hands on a copy at some point! Thanks for the giveaway!


  32. Jocelyn, my honey is retired Air Force. So hello from one former military wife to another. :)

    Loved your tips. I have two kids who are a little older than yours, and with summer here, I'm finding it a real challenge to get my writing time in. When I attempted NaNo for the first time last November, I discovered that I write well when I rise before the sun at 0'dark hundred. I still do that, because it's the only guaranteed writing time I get in each day.

    During the school year, I try to set aside one day a week for writing where I have no appointments scheduled. Saying no to friends and serving at church was hard, but it was good for my story.

    Being a plotter, one thing that has helped me with my first draft (I call them fast drafts) is to plan scenes out ahead of time. Then when I sit down to write, all I do is write. Does that make sense?

    Loved your post today. Thanks for your great tips, Jocelyn!

  33. Thank you for allowing us a peek into your writing life, Jocelyn. i am not a writer, but was fascinated in your post. Thank you for the opportunity to win your novel!
    Prayer is the most important in anything, and i'll be praying for you!

  34. I can't remember if I've mentioned this here, but if I have, it's worth repeating....

    I don't have small children anymore, but I have a lot on my plate. By choice, of course.

    I have 3 "paying" jobs, in addition to being a wife and mother, a faithful church attendee, and 5 hours devoted to the nursing home once a week.

    Purchasing Manager
    ACFW Conference Treasurer

    Oh, and my oldest is getting married in 4 weeks (4 weeks??? Panic!!!!), but that's a blip on the radar of my "long-term" time management.

    A couple of months ago, I was SOOOO blessed that I was able to go part-time at my HUGELY stressful day job, at least temporarily. I don't know how I would have managed this summer otherwise, but I suppose I would have. I've been doing it for 20-some-odd years...

    I had promised myself that if I ever had a few extra hours, I would have a BEW-tiful day EVERY day. What's a BEW-tiful day? Read on...

    Pick 3 things you MUST get done every day. More than 3 will overwhelm you, and you won't get them all done. This is the 3 things that usually get shoved to the side, but are the 3 things dearest to your heart.

    If you're having trouble figuring out which 3 things to pick, do it this way. What are the 3 things that you feel the most GUILT if you don't accomplish them? Okay, got it?

    Now, create an acronym with those 3 things and do them everyday, no matter what.

    Mine are:

    B - Read my Bible
    E - Exercise
    W - Write

    And when I do all three, I have had a BEW-tiful day!!!

    This past Tuesday was my horrific day, but I did all 3 even though my day was 17 hours long: 5am-10pm.

    I wrote, I exercised AND read my Bible on Kindle at the same time, worked the day job AND spent 5 hours at the nursing home. Thank goodness I don't have to do that very often.

    Okay, I'm outta here. Day job calls!

  35. Good morning everyone! Wow, I am getting here really late in the game, aren't I? Thanks for the warm welcome, and for all the fantastic comments! I know a few of you, but the rest of you I can already tell I would LIKE to know better!

    Vince, yes, I have read Walt Whitman's Civil War writings, and all about his time in Washington. I included him in my nonfiction book, Stories of Faith and Courage from the Home Front, but he does not make an appearance in Wedded to War because even though he was in Washington for a few months when my characters were there, they didn't run in the same circles. I tried to figure out a way to include him, but it would have had nothing to do with the plot and would have seemed forced. I had the same dilemma with Clara Barton--she was there, but not in the right place to interact with my characters in Washington. Louisa May Alcott was a nurse in the Union Hotel (where my character Charlotte was for a while) but Louisa didn't show up until AFTER my characters had left town for the hospital transports. SO I had to just stick with historical figures that were less famous, but who were actually truly integral to the plot and the lives of my characters. But I actually like this, because I get to introduce readers to people they may not know, but should: Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell, Frederick Law Olmsted, Dorothea Dix, etc.

    Andrea- YES I had "If You Give a Moose a Muffin" in my head when i wrote that little thing about the laundry. I was wondering if anyone would pick up my current literary influences! LOL Way to go! HA!

    Glynna- You went to UNI? It's a mile from my house, and has been a good source of babysitters (elementary education majors). We were so excited that the Panthers got into the Sweet Sixteen in March Madness a couple of years ago. To see them on the cover of Sports Illustrated was just WILD! As you know, Cedar Falls is a small town.

    Audra, you definitely should not compare yourself to others! I just returned from the International Christian Retail Show, and I was in the company of best-selling, award-winning authors who have written WAY more than me. But thankfully, God has really given me permission to not feel "less than" compared to them. All we have to do is be true to who God calls us to be. For me, I'm a mom first (and wife) and writer second. So it's really OK that I don't write four novels a year. Just listen to what you think God is asking you to do, and then ask Him for the grace and strength to do that.

    OK- speaking of writing whlie the bullets fly--I need to get ready to take my daughter to VBS but I will be back!

  36. I'm a novice writer, but I have found that if I keep my laptop with me, or even a printout of what I've written, I can write:
    1. At the ballpark waiting on my son to play
    2. On Wed night at church when I'm skipping a Beth Moore Bible Study (shhh)
    3. At work when my students are taking a test (shhh again)
    4. In any waiting room
    5. At restaurants when I always get there earlier than my friends
    6. In the car on trips (my husband doesn't like this because I am the navigator and we miss exits)
    7. At Barnes & Nobles when I need a quick break from the house
    8. Over a snack (there is popcorn embedded in my keyboard)
    9. Outside after a swim & before it gets hot (singing birds are great inspiration)
    10. After vacuuming; tedious tasks often generate creativity!
    Those are my top ten, but I still live on Unpubbed Island so take them with some extra consideration.

  37. Jocelyn, what a beautiful family.
    You could do what I did for time....wait until the kids grow up.

    Admittedly this is a long process! :)

    The real trick with "Not doing the laundry" is that when you're stuck in a part of the book that you're thinkin is wretched, the laundry calls to you. You start having little 'must do' projects crop up in your mind to lure you away from a book that is NO FUN.

  38. I don't know if this is true or not, it's sort of a theory of mine. I'd be glad to debate if with anyone who's truly struggled with writer's block.

    But I have points in every book, usually during really BIG scenes, the black moment, comic/action scenes, and I'm typing along and knowing that in this scene I've really got to hit all the right note. This has got to be BIG.

    And I'm writing drivel. I know I've said this before on Seekerville, but I KNOW I have to write it badly (write it DOWN) before I can fix it. And yet, I'm typing this explosive scene, emotionally, physically explosive and I envision it as two or three chapters and I've written two pages of dead boring prose and I'm done.

    Okay, I KNOW that's how it's got to be at first.
    But still, while I'm in the midst of it it's just so BAD and I start avoiding it.
    That's when the laundry calls.
    That's when I think of something I should be preparing for dinner.
    That's when I remember I haven't talked to my mother for a couple of days.
    But it's all avoidance. It's all disgust with the FAILURE of my writing, even though CONSCIOUSLY I know I'm doing this, still, I can hardly force myself forward.

    So, my point about writer's you think that might be at the heart of it? A writer feeling like they're writing pap and just not being able to force themselves forward?

    I never have writer's block, but then maybe I have what others call writer's block, I just think of it as me ... ahem ... SUCKING.

  39. Awesome post, Jocelyn, with great tips. As the momma to three boys ages 7 to 4, I do a lot of what you suggested. My computer is on the living room couch. I can tune the kiddos out when they're playing too. *grin*

  40. So nice to 'meet' you, Jocelyn! (Love your name, btw.)

    Great tips! I like to squeeze in time before dinner and after dinner. Any later in the evening and I'm a) too tired or b) too wired from creativity to sleep afterward.

    Note: writing while making dinner results in pots overflowing onto stove and overcooked food in the oven! (I even ignore/don't hear the timer bell sometimes!) Don't know why that time of day is so GOOD for me get creative. No wonder I hate to cook!

    Don't enter me in the draw. I have your book waiting on Kindle!


  41. Susan, get one of those timers that beeps for one minute, just keeps at you, AND put it out of reach so you can't just hit the button to shut it up 'knowing' you're only gonna type a few more words.

    Scorched potatoes are my LIFE!

  42. Mary, you have all the answers!!

    I haven't heard of one of those type of timers, but I do need one. Will have to search it out!

    Although I may get so annoyed that I smash it with a kitchen cleaver! Or hurl it against the wall.

    Don't mess with a menopausal woman! That's my new MOTTO! LOL.


  43. GREAT POST!!! I loved "with the bullets flying" best. I'm fairly spoiled as a writer already but I also loved being given permission to skip the laundry. Although every once in a while when I'm waiting for the story to catch up to me (as Vince would say, because there's NO WAY we get writer's block) I do a small chore because it gives me a break. Please enter me in the drawing. I want a copy of this book!

  44. It doesn't necessarily get better as the kids get older. I used to tell myself that. Now, 10 years later, the oldest 17 and the youngest 7, they require even more energy, just different energy. There's always a practice, a game, help with homework, storytime...something.

    I tried late night, which used to be my sweet spot, but as I get older, I'm just too tired. So I recently switched to try mornings before work. Not perfect at getting up but I'm making progress.

    The other thing is definitely writing through the chaos. I'm gotten good at allowing them to swirl around me.

  45. Susan Codone and Pam Hillman- wow, those are great sidebars to this post! May I have your permission to quote you if I ever do a longer version of this post for my own Web site?

    Mary Connealy, you are SO funny. I have been getting your books for years and never have I ever read anything that would lead me to believe your writing ahem--"sucks." However, you do bring up a very good point. Self-doubt is a huge block to a writer's creativity. Sometimes I'm writing something just to get it down, and the entire time, I'm just shaking my head saying out loud, "This is so bad. This is awful. This is just so terrible." (also rolling my eyes as I type) Thankfully, we all have editors, so even if our second and third edits don't quite hit the mark, someone else will be able to help. My editor suggested I cut out an entire character from the book, and it made a huge, positive difference.

    On the whole laundry thing--I guess if you already have a block, it's OK to just leave the room as you are still thinking and you can put a load in if you really want to. But if I'm on a roll by the time it's time to switch the load, i would just let it sit there and wait for me. Clean, wet clothes can wait--inspiration often doesn't! :)

  46. Welcome to Seekerville, Jocelyn! Wonderful practical post! Your tips obviously work. I still struggle to write an unedited first draft, but know I should.

    Wedded to War sounds excellent!! Will have to snap it up.


  47. A very sweet 92-year-old lady said something to me the other day i could have put in this post. She said something about how I must really be organized and scheduled with my time, and then she said, "Obviously, you don't spend a lot of time on your hair, so that must help." I tried not to laugh too hard! And then she caught the gaffe and recovered with, "I mean, it's very becoming on you the way you wear it, but it just doesn't look like you need to do much to it." SO funny.

    Erica Vetsch and I had a writer's weekend retreat in St. Ansgar Iowa in the spring. It's about straight north of Des Moines all the way to the Minnesota border. A beautiful victorian mansion in a tiny town. YOU SHOULD COME WHEN WE DO IT NEXT TIME.

    (tell those tiny children bye bye and hit the road, girl)

  49. Jocelyn, great to have you as our Seekerville guest!

    I really had to laugh at your point about not doing laundry, though. My problem is that I'll throw in a batch on my way upstairs to my office and then TOTALLY FORGET ABOUT IT!!! If my husband doesn't notice and throw the stuff in the dryer . . . then then later take it out, fold it, and put it away . . . it would stay in the washer mildewing for who knows how long! (Probably until the next time I thought about tossing in a load of clothes.)

  50. PatriciaW- thanks for the hope that you can write in the middle of activity! That's definitely the one that is hardest for me to do, but I absolutely MUST become a pro at it if i'm going to meet my next deadline.

    Nancy Kimball: I love that- waiting for the story to catch up to you! I'm going to use that.

    Last summer, when I was paying a sitter $10 an hour to watch the kids so I could write, I would get SO FRUSTRATED if the words weren't flowing well. (Also I was doing the write-edit-write-edit crazy cycle). I always said I couldn't afford writer's block, because i was paying so much $$ for the time to write uninterrupted. I wouldn't allow myself to take a break when the sitter was on the clock.

    But there is something to be said for letting your subconscious do a little work when you're doing something else. I'm sure you've all had inspiration hit at weird times- in the shower, in the middle of the night, etc. Sometimes I will be watching a TV show or movie with my husband and something will hit me-- like "That's it! my story needs a character who can [fill in the blank]."

  51. Susan, they're cheap. Smashing one occasionally is affordable.

  52. Mary Connealy-- St. Ansgar, Iowa? I would LOVE to go to your next one! PLEASE keep me posted! thanks!

  53. Hi Pam:

    I don’t know why but your comment below made my morning:

    Oh, and my oldest is getting married in 4 weeks (4 weeks??? Panic!!!!)

    This really made me laugh and feel good. Your eldest must be a girl!

    My mother just showed up the day before the wedding. After waiting 33 years, I don’t think she even thought it was really going to happen.


  54. Hi Jocelyn

    Now I really want to read your book. I’m not a big fan of ‘poetic license’ when it comes to historical fiction. (Of course, I would have a character that just transferred in from where Whitman was working. She might only have one sentence to say about Walt but it would express the essence of what he was about at the time and it would organically move the story forward. In my dreams!!! : ) )


  55. Hi Julie

    I also have ideas about San Francisco too. : )

    If I was writing about San Francisco in 1903 I’d have to have President Theodore Roosevelt’s, motor car parade, on the afternoon of Tuesday, May 12, 1903. I’d also want my characters to talk about or visit the Cliff House…everyone was going there at the time. Wow! A huge house precariously perched on a cliff – there has to be some symbolism here somewhere. A great place for the hero to discover he’s in love.


  56. Hi Jocelyn:

    The prayer idea always works for me. Debby Giusti actually wrote a Writer’s Prayer (which is posted just above my computer) and there is one line in it that says it all to me:

    “Give me courage to step out in faith, to stretch and grow and to be the writer you have called me to be.

    I hope they read the complete prayer when they do the prayer sessions at the ACFW conference.


  57. Hi Mary:

    I don’t get writer’s block. I get writer’s displacement. Like Jocelyn says: just write something else. Of course, I think she was referring to your WIP and not the Seeker blog!

    Now I’m off to the Health Zone. More displacement. I think I'm too hyper today.


    P.S. I had a clever retort to your “l'esprit de l'escalier” post but I didn’t think of it until this morning. It doesn’t count if it is a day late does it? It was going to be: l'esprit de l'escalier is why they invented déjà vu.

  58. Congrats Pam Hillman!!
    A wedding in 4 weeks. I LOVE weddings and I hope this one will be beautiful. =)

  59. Mary Connealy - I don't have writer's block either.
    Seriously! Are you reading my mail? I avoided a particular scene for almost a week. It was easy to do with my job and company and chores and a holiday...
    Yep. Avoidance issues here. I finally nailed my pants to a chair and just typed. It's not pretty, but I got past it and am still moving foward so I guess that's a good thing. I don't know whether I'm looking foward to rewriting the drivel or dreading reading how bad it is.

    And I've read the end results of what you call "pap". You SO do not Suck!

  60. Somewhere in my head I know these things but it is always so good to be reminded and encouraged again. Thank you Jocelyn for this post. It is so good to know that even prolific writers like Mary sometimes hate what they are writing. I appreciated being reminded about the right brain/ left brain /editing thing again. I just need to get it down then I can fix it. Thanks again Jocelyn and everybody.

  61. Cute family picture!

    And I love the tree in the playroom.

    I'm currently strugglign to go 'hands-free' on my parenting time. That means no tech devices or facebooking certain horus of the day. I realized just how much time gets eaten up by 'checking' things on line.

    I think if I can cut down on the random, lost mintues of piddlign on the laptop, the kids would be more udnerstanding of 'writing while the bullets fly'. Love that phrase.

  62. Mary Connealy, you just made my morning.

    "I don't have writer's block. I'm just avoiding SUCKING."

    Or writing suckage? I like that.

    FDS. First draft suckage.

  63. VINCE SAID: "I also have ideas about San Francisco too. : )

    LOL, VINCE, why does that not surprise me???? ;)

    Regarding President Theodore Roosevelt’s, motor car parade in May 1903 -- BUMMER!! My story starts in August 1903, BUT ... my heroine gets mugged, so she embarks on a self-defense plan of Ju-jitsu popularized by none other than Teddy Roosevelt himself, so I'm taking advantage of that, trust me, and can also mention the motorcade as something our heroine saw, so thank you!

    As far as the Cliff House -- I beat you to the punch, my friend, because it is part of book 1, along with the fabulous Sutro Baths, practically a world wonder back then with seven indoor freshwater swimming pools where 10,000 people could swim at once and had to wear standard Sutro Bath swimsuits issued on arrival. Can you imagine stocking 10,000 swimsuits????



  64. Vince, I am not a fan of poetic license with historical dates, events, figures, any of those details. I was very precise with the timing of the plot to match up with the battles and political decisions that actually happened in my timeframe. I even looked up the weather! That might be considered going a little too far, but I'm so glad I did because my own brother recently told me he thought I had too many thunderstorms in the book. Like I was being melodramatic or trying to be symbolic of an emotionally gloomy or turbulent time. And I was able to say, nope, I didn't make that up--there was a chemical reaction after every major battle between the gunsmoke and the atmosphere, so after the battles there were always thunderstorms. I can point to plenty of primary sources that will tell you it rained ALL day after the First Battle of Bull Run, and the spring of 1862 was especially rainy, which was a problem for the Peninsula Campaign. I have some scenes of pulling wounded soldiers of the shores in the rain, not to be dramatic, but because IT WAS dramatic. :) (And as a novelist, I was so glad!)

  65. Julie, I can't wait to read your San Francisco series!!!

    Virginia, I think that's a great approach- to do less "piddling" checking stuff on the laptop while with kids, and then being more focused during writing time. I'm trying to do that too. There's SO much to "check" online it can waste an alarming amount of time! :)

  66. Welcome Jocelyn!! Great post--I feel more energized just from reading your tips--thank you! ~ I had to chuckle at your tip about not doing laundry during writing time. SO many times, I've stopped to put in "just one load of laundry" but....the cats' litter boxes are in a corner of my laundry room, so of course then I have to also clean those. After washing my hands I notice a few things in the sink, so I stop to stick those in the dishwasher, and ZAP! My writing time has evaporated *sigh*. So I found I'm better off doing the laundry (or any household task) AFTER my writing is done. ~ LOVE your family photo--your children are adorable. Enjoy these precious years with them--before you know it, they'll be gone to college and you'll be missing them. Blessings from Georgia, Patti Jo (who doesn't handle "Empty Nest" well at all....)

  67. I am not a writer (well, I do write a blog, but I'm not counting that!). Anyhow, this was a good "article" and I felt that several of the points could apply to many areas of "getting stuff done." Your book looks wonderful!! I would love to win it.



  68. Joceylyn -- you can quote me anytime. I can add #11. I can write while I wait on my daughters to get ready. To. Go. Anywhere.

  69. Ladette, that's great! I'm happy if some of these tips can help just get stuff done in other areas. Along those lines, if you haven't read Kathy Peel's books about being the family manager, I recommend them. She has lots (no, TONS) of tips for streamlining the household tasks so we have TIME for other fun stuff. Like writing.

    Susan, you made me laugh out loud with your #11. :)

  70. Patti Jo, I loved your little story of all the things you do when you start out to just start one load of laundry. I am TOTALLY there with you. With two kids, there are always things to pick up and put away if I want to be distracted from writing.

    Have your kids recently gone to college? I can't imagine how hard that will be when it's my turn to be an empty nester!

  71. While "y'all" are writing, may I enter as a reader for the book giveaway?? Kathleen

  72. Lane Hill House, of course!! :) We love readers! And really, we should all be readers even if we are writers. As a writer, I call reading really good books "research." I love picking up on other authors' storytelling techniques. :)

  73. Thanks for these great tips.

    I actually did get up early and wrote this morning and never checked my emails before work. And now you've got it on your top 10 list, so maybe I should do that all the time.

    Also, thanks for reminding us to pray. I'm doing this to hopefully bring glory to God one day, so I should be praying.

    Thanks again!
    Jackie L.

  74. Awesome tips! I can't wait to read this book!


  75. Pam - That's a Bewtiful way to spend a day.

    I love it!!!!!!

  76. Welcome to Seekerville, Jocelyn! Great tips. I've finally learned to forget the editing until I've finished the manuscript. I'm not quite that disciplined, but so much better than I used to be.

    Your books looks wonderful!

    Cedar Falls is only 1 1/2 hour from St. Ansgar where the Blue Belle Inn is located. You could at least come up for lunch.
    We are definitely going back someday.

  78. VINCE: de l'escalier is why they invented déjà vu.

    Wow, I'm doing jokes in French. Who'd've thunk it, huh?

    de l'escalier is a French term translated as Staircase Thoughts.

    Those are the things you think of to put someone in their place who insulted you.........only you don't think of them until hours later.

    so de l'escalier is why they invented déjà vu.

    It's like time travel, you live it again only this time you're ready with the SASS.

  79. Great tips, Jocelyn! I completely agree with just writing something. Even if it's bad, you get a sense of accomplishment. Prayer is always at the top of my list. I have a framed copy of Debby's, A Writer's Prayer, on my desk.

  80. Wow! You have no idea how badly I needed to read that post! I was just lamenting to my friends that I haven't written a word in 2 weeks! I'm a teacher and start back to school next week, so I've been so wrapped up in preparing for that that I've let everything else slide. Thanks for helping me get things back into perspective!

  81. Great points Jocelyn! I still have a hard time not editing as I go. I love 'don't do the laundry' I've got that one down!

  82. Great ideas Jocelyn. For me one of the most important things is prayer. I pray before I start, while I'm writing and after too. If I'm writing and I get stuck, I take a break, get on the treadmill and pray some more.

    Jodie Wolfe

  83. Hi Jocelyn! When I saw the title of this post...I knew I had to get some time advice! I've got a 5 yr old, 3 yr old, and a 4 month old. I'm nursing the baby, homeschooling, etc. and even though writing is something I'd like to do, I feel very time-starved! I just smiled to myself when I saw your...oh the kids will be quiet...moment. I had one of those the other day. I took all three somewhere and I had to meet with someone. As she was trying to explain something to me the baby was crying, my son was climbing on the chairs and playing with blinds, and my daughter was just following her brother around. Craziness. : ) I like your tips, though, and I think once things settle a little more I can get back in the swing of things! Thanks for the advice!
    Btw...I just got Wedded to War on my kindle the other day. Can't wait to read it!

  84. welcome Jocelyn, I have this book and cant wait to read it. (was going to read it for the CFBA tour but am taking over 8 days to read a book at present so it will be awhile). But I love the look of the book and story really grabbed my attention.

    Am now struggling with a cold which is further eating into reading time. I hate being weak and sick.

  85. Wow, all you ladies with the babies at your knee tryign to write. God bless you all.
    I will throw this one bit of advice in on top of all the Can Do Spirit.

    Do not EVER regret time stolen from writing spent with your children. As I sit here typing, all four of my babies grown women, well, I've got plenty of time now. But back then, those babies are your priority and you should have no guilt about giving them the best of yourselves.

    Good Luck!

  86. First off, I'd like to say you have a beautiful family Jocelyn!

    I really appreciated your post today. It will definitely help me to rethink my 'excuses' for not finding time to write.

    Smiles & Blessings,
    Cindy W.


  87. This article was very inspiring--not that I've been writing, but hope and pray to get started again. Julie, do you remember the bad shoulder I had when we met--I'm having surgery (extensive) shoulder on July 31. I'm have a forced time out from daily activities. I may even use "Dragon" while I'm lying around. Have you ever tried that?
    Getting some of my feelings written down and blame the people in a novel is very cleansing. Thanks again for this blog and the encouragemenit has given me. I'll be waiting anxiously for Jocelyn's new novel. Thanks and love to all--and a hug for Julie.

  88. I am so sorry I haven't been able to stop in sooner.


    You are my soul sister.

    DON'T DO LAUNDRY. Right up there with don't clean. I LOVE YOU!!!!

    And I love your portable office too.

    And the icing on the cake. BE ANTI SOCIAL.

    LOVE IT!@!!!!!

  89. I read this last night when it was posted and I didn't comment because I was supposed to be doing my words - not reading at Seekerville.

    So all day, every time I wanted to comment, I'd think. Nope get the words done.

    They're still not done, but the day's running out so I wanted to come say two things.

    I can't wait to read your book. It sounds wonderful.


    How great is it to have Julie Lessman as your friend? It must be like having an unending source of encouragement and praise. Love that about you, Julie.

    Thanks for stopping by Seekerville today, Jocelyn. Now I have to go follow your advice and be anti-social again until I get my words done.

    I did do laundry today though - hangs head in shame.

  90. I have an easy time skipping the laundry, but I don't want to be anti-social.
    I have 3 sisters and my mom all live w/in ten minutes of me and someone is always wanting to go out to eat. Did I mention I'm on a diet?
    Olive Garden as become my favorite place because I can have 2 bowls of minestrone soup for 200 calories. I digress.

    I still have 5 kids at home, but they're getting older! They can help a lot w/the housework and cooking. But sometimes I just want the house to myself instead of hiding in my room.

    I can so relate to Melissa.

  91. Just now getting back to Seekerville. Another long day, but tomorrow I'm HOME. Yay!

    Jocelyn, if you stop back by, feel free to quote me anytime. Well, as long as what I say makes sense...

    And, Vince, I only have boys. No girls. But I am helping plan the wedding. Having a ball, and am learning tons of interesting stuff about weddings that that I never knew about. Let's just say it's a HUGE industry! lol

  92. Whew! Sorry I haven't been able to keep up with all the comments over the last few hours- we were hosting a party here, but now it's all cleaned up. Mary Connealy, 90 minutes is not too far for me to come!! I'd love to. Please do keep me posted. Pam, yes, got your note-thanks! If I quote you I'll come let you know. :) Tina, your comment made me smile. All you other mommys out there, we are kindred spirits!!!

    For those of you who are sick or recovering from surgery (or anticipating another one) - I hope and pray you get well soon and feel like yourself again. It's no fun to go through that.

    Thanks all for having me on today!! I had so much fun, I just might be a regular over here.

    Although, starting tomorrow, I have two months to write the next novel so I'm going to have to follow my own advice and go anti-social for a while!! Pray for me, please! :)

  93. WANDA SAID: "Getting some of my feelings written down and blame the people in a novel is very cleansing."

    LOL, you got that right, my friend!! Saying one for you right now, you sweet thing, about your surgery on 7/31 AND putting it my calendar that day to pray for you, sweetie.

    Yes, I have downloaded the DRAGON app, but have only used it a few times. It doesn't always get my words down right in e-mails, though, so not sure if I'm not a clear speaker or what. :|

    Hugs right back to you, Wanda, and hope to hear a good report on the surgery!


  94. MARY SAID: "How great is it to have Julie Lessman as your friend? It must be like having an unending source of encouragement and praise. Love that about you, Julie."

    AW, MARE, that is just about one of the nicest things anybody has ever said to me -- THANK YOU, you sweetheart you!! I do love to encourage because I didn't get a lot of it growing up, so I take great pains to say positive things when I really mean them.

    Bless you, Mary!!


  95. Hi Mary:

    You totally get it! I can’t out esoteric you. : )

    I did have a “l'esprit de l'escalier” moment at the health club today after having read your comment:

    ”So, my point about writer's you think that might be at the heart of it? A writer feeling like they're writing pap and just not being able to force themselves forward?”

    I’m just now getting back to a computer but what you described above is called:

    writer’s schlock

    Oy vey!

    A new problem for writers!


  96. Jocelyn, I'm sorry I'm late! But what a great post with some fantastic ideas!!

    I'm still cracking up about the long story and 7 babysitters, though! :)

    Thanks for being with us! I LOVE your book cover!!

  97. I find that if I get up early in the day I am ahead all day.


  98. Would love to win your book!Sounds so interesting!

  99. Looks and sounds interesting!
    Enter me!
    God Bless!

  100. Marybelle- the same is true for me! That should be enough to motivate me to do it every single day, right? :) I'm getting much better at it.

    KC FRANTZEN-so good to see you on here too, and congrats on the wonderful progress on your book- so exciting.

    Missy, if you LOVE the book cover, you will fall over if you watch the book trailer1 (In a good way, I think!) You can find it at on the home page. Look around the site while you're there- I'm totally impressed by it! hooray for RiverNorth! :)

    And YES for the record, having Julie Lessman as a friend has been the biggest blessing. She has been one of my go-to encouragers for those low, dark moments of self-doubt that I'm learning we all have!

    Hey Mary Connealy! Just got your book in the mail yesterday, already started reading it. Looks fantastic. Congrats.

  101. Great post! :-)


  102. Jocelyn - Yes, the time thing. Argh. I'm one of those writers who must get INTO my WIP. I can't do 10 minutes at a time but need at least a good 30 minutes plus to get going...which means I need at least an hour or more to be productive. That's tough when I have kids, the farm, etc. But you know that. I write in the morning between feeding animals and waking up the kids, then again in the afternoon after home school, then again at night when the house is quiet. It's a struggle, but it's my heart's desire, so I'm willing to fight for it.

    Thanks for the post, and for your generosity. I've heard great things about your book!

  103. Ouch. Right off the bat, I find I break the two first rules. Make that three rules, as I'm responding to email. But hey, I'll blame that on Seekersville, because I'm always eager to read what you folks have to say.

    BTY Wedded to War is a great title.

  104. Jocelyn, I wrote during last year's NaNo at my son's basketball practices. Yelling, balls bouncing and occasionally flying at my head (I sat on the floor under the basket since the bleacher seats weren't out)... It can be done.