Tag Archives: motivation

#atozchallenge O is for Opportunity


by Lillian Csernica on April 17,  2019

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There’s a famous saying: “Build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door.” That might have been true once, but today the Internet has brought the marketplace to the consumers. They don’t have to “beat a path” anywhere. It’s up to us as the sellers of our writing to get our work in front of the people who will buy it.

How do we do that? By making the most of every opportunity.

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Where are those opportunities? Market listings.

Duotrope — It’s possible to glean some information from this site without paying an annual subscription fee. Me, I have a subscription. Best money I ever spent. I credit this site with improving my acceptance rate.

The Submissions Grinder — This site is free. There is a lot of information available. Do be careful to follow through on the links and make sure you’ve got the latest submission requirements. Many markets, especially anthologies, have limited reading windows on very specific themes.

Remember what I said about building a writing community? That’s another crucial element in finding opportunity. The more writers we know, the more contacts we have in the writing world, the more likelier we are to hear about opportunities.

One day I was at the supermarket. I bumped into Deborah J. Ross, a well-known writer and editor who also lives in my part of the world. We’ve known each other for a while now, mostly meeting up at conventions. Deborah happened to be putting together a new anthology. She said she’d love to see a story from me. Holy cats! I thanked her and got to work right away. That story, The Katana Matrix, will appear in Citadels of Darkover.
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What happens if we can’t find an opportunity that matches what we have to offer?

We take it to the next level by finding ways to create our own opportunities.

Tailor stories we’ve already finished to suit the target market.

When I was in college, I took a fiction course and wrote the original version of Masquerade. The result landed about halfway between literary and genre fiction. Later, when I decided to start submitting the story, I rewrote it and cranked up certain aspects so the story fit into the horror genre. It first appeared in Midnight Zoo, then Karl Edward Wagner accepted it for my second appearance in The Year’s Best Horror Stories.

Push our limits by writing on a subject or in a genre where there are many opportunities.

I started out writing fantasy and horror. I switched to romance because it was easier to break into the novel market there and the money was better. The result? Ship of Dreams. That novel did earn out its advance, and it continues to bring in good royalties.

Ask questions, seek advice, beat the bushes in pursuit of potential opportunities.

Where do we start? Join online writing communities. Join the professional association that suits what you prefer to write. Go to the places where you will meet other writers, editors, and publishers. Conventions, seminars, lectures at the local library. Yes, attending the larger events can get expensive. We have to weigh the potential benefits against the cost. One good pitch session can save a lot of time and effort.

Remember: Be polite. Be considerate. Be grateful. Pass on the kindness to other writers who need help. This is how we grow our community, and how we keep ourselves in the minds of people in a position to alert us to opportunities that could make all the difference to our success.
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Filed under #atozchallenge, Blog challenges, Conventions, editing, fantasy, Fiction, Goals, historical fiction, perspective, publication, research, romance, Writing

How to Get Everything Done At Once


by Lillian Csernica on July 26, 2018

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People ask me how I manage to keep writing and selling fiction given everything I have going on at home with my two special needs sons. Some days I don’t get any writing done. That’s not a happy feeling. I have to make sure I get it done. That means on some days I shove everything else to the side, grab the laptop or the notebook, and just WRITE. God help anybody who interrupts me.

What is the secret of my success?

I make To Do lists. I mean one for each separate areas of my life. Here are the categories I work with every day:

Son #1 — He’s the medically fragile one who takes more or less eleven different medications each day, along with nebulizer treatments and other health-related activities.

Son #2 — School’s out for him, so he’s in need of something fun to do each day. Given that he has ASD, he’d spend every waking moment playing with something electronic. It’s important to get him out of the house. He often rides along with me when I go to appointments or run errands.

Writing — This gets done in my favorite coffeehouse, during downtime in waiting rooms, and here at home late at night. You will learn to write when you can, wherever you can. It’s the only way to get it done.

Phone calls — Doctors, medical equipment suppliers, the pharmacy, and anybody else with whom I do not communicate by email.

Appointments — We have lots of these. I have two weekly appointments. Regular check-ups for the boys come around every six to twelve months, which doesn’t seem like a lot until they show up right in the middle of a packed week. My writer’s group meets once a month. I have conventions coming up. I must also keep in mind when my husband plans trips and when other people in the household will be away. Big impact on the caregiver schedule.

Errands — The usual. Groceries, picking up meds, whatever prep I have to do for conventions in terms of PR materials, taking Son #2 on his outings, etc.

prioritization

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Once the To Do lists are made, I begin to prioritize.

What absolutely has to get done today?

Let’s take tomorrow as an example. I have to be up at 6 a.m. with Son #1 for his morning routine. The RN is coming to relieve me in time for me to rush off to my first appointment of the day. When that’s done I’ll have about thirty minutes before I need to drive to the second appointment of the day. Then I have to rush back home and fill in as caregiver until the regularly scheduled person comes on duty. That will give me five hours of time with Son #1 during which he gets two separate doses of medication and one breathing treatment.

During those five hours I might be able to write, depending on how my son is doing. He’s been having more frequent seizures this week, so my attention span has to be focused mainly on him. I might be able to get some reading in, since I can glance up as him at I turn pages, which I do at a pretty quick pace.

Once the aide comes on duty, I have more freedom, but this is the nonmedical aide so I have to draw all the doses of medication Son #1 gets between 5:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. I will probably sit on the couch in the living room with my laptop and catch up on email, or I’ll do the writing that still needs to be done. Lately I’m writing by hand in spiral notebooks because I seem to write more quickly and in a better creative trance.

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And, last but not least, I have to spend some quality time with my cats. Around 10 p.m. two of them get the rips and demand a game of chase-the-ribbon or catch-the-mousie. Then one of them claims my lap while the other sits on the back of the couch right behind my head.

Figure out your categories. Pick the one most important item in each. Those items go on a new list. Can you make them work out together on the same day? If not, keep going up and down the lists until you can get at least one thing on each list done in the course of one day.

It’s all progress. It all counts. The tasks do not have to be the same size or of the same importance. What matters is getting them done. If this method gets to be too much, scale back your efforts. Consider only the three most important categories. Delegate more tasks. Say no more often. Protect your time.

Most of all, make sure you WRITE. Ten minutes, thirty minutes, two hours, whatever you can manage. Just do it, and do it every single day.

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Filed under autism, cats, Conventions, doctors, editing, Family, fantasy, Fiction, frustration, Goals, Lillian Csernica, neurodiversity, parenting, publication, Special needs, therapy, Writing

How To Ruin Your Protagonist’s Day


by Lillian Csernica on January 26, 2015 We all know the feeling.  We sit down at our keyboards to do the day’s writing, and there’s nothing in our heads but white noise.  Vague ideas chase each other around.  Nothing ignites.  No conversations start between characters.  Now what? I won NaNoWriMo last year, my first time out.  The secret to my success became one simple question: How can I ruin my hero’s/heroine’s day today?  Good storytelling is made of conflict, and conflict comes from throwing every plausible obstacle into your protagonist’s path.  Sometimes you can get away with some implausible obstacles too, but go easy on those unless you’re sure they don’t damage the rest of the story. Let’s look at my work-in-progress today.  My hero Tendo has just won a game of shogi against his father.  This is the first time Tendo has ever beaten Oto-san at shogi.  All those hours spent playing shogi against himself while he was still in exile during Book One have now brought him a victory he’s longed for ever since Oto-san taught him how to play the game.  They sit back, light their pipes, and engage in some good-natured father-son joking about whether or not my heroine Yuriko has learned to cook. All this is lovely and tranquil, right?  Surely Tendo has earned a few pleasant moments after at least two assassination attempts.  He has indeed earned them, but the key words there are “a few.”  Tendo’s father chooses this moment to raise the issue of the children that Tendo and Yuriko will have.  He’s Japanese, she’s British by birth.  That means the children will be “kon ketsu” or, to use the modern term, hapa.  The children will be half-breeds.  To a samurai, this is intolerable.  Tendo’s father tells him that when Tendo’s oldest sister marries, Tendo’s father will adopt her husband as his heir.

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I have just disinherited my hero.  Because he married Yuriko, a gaijin, and she will be the mother of his children, Tendo will lose his place as eldest son and heir to the Tendo family line.  In the world of the samurai, I have just ripped away the foundations of Tendo’s identity and sense of self.  There is nothing he can do but bow his head respectfully and leave the room.  Now that he feels cut off from his family, the only person Tendo can go to is Yuriko herself.  This leads to Tendo learning what happened in an earlier scene when Yuriko and Tendo’s mother faced off over tea with both of Tendo’s sisters on hand to watch the genteel combat.

Photo credit: Okinawa Soba

I ruined Yuriko’s day, and then I ruined Tendo’s day.  This is a romance novel, so the pain they’re both feeling will draw them closer together, right up to the moment where it drives them apart again. And people think writing romance novels is easy.

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What does your protagonist want most?  At that moment?  In the big picture?  Let him or her think he or she has finally gotten it, then yank the rug out and turn the world upside down.  Here’s another secret to this whole process.  If you find yourself resisting the urge to do something really terrible to your protagonist, that means you’re on the right track.  I love my characters.  I don’t want to hurt them or make their lives any worse.  That’s the Reader in me talking.  The Writer in me has to rain down hell and damnation at every turn to keep Readers reading and to show my protagonists are determined to win no matter what. Keep the pressure on, right up to that moment when your protagonist has to risk it all in the climactic moment of the story.  Go big or go home, right?

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Filed under fantasy, Fiction, Goals, history, Japan, love, marriage, romance, Self-image, Writing

How to Make Writing Progress Every Day


by Lillian Csernica on March 28, 2013

As the mother of two special needs teenage boys, there are many days when I am just not in the mood to write.  I’m too tired, I’m too stressed, I’ve had to be out at appointments or making phone calls or sorting out scheduling problems with the nurses and aides.  All I want to do is flop down on the couch with a bag of microwave popcorn and let my higher brain functions take a vacation while I watch some trashy action movie on Netflix.

That doesn’t get the day’s writing done.

How do I get myself to churn out the day’s writing regardless of mental fatigue, emotional turbulence, and family demands?  I keep two lists:  Process Goals and Productivity Goals.

Process Goal: This is an activity that will contribute to the overall completion of a particular writing project.  I have a new short story underway.  I brainstorm more plot complications to see if I can raise the stakes and make the story more exciting with greater suspense.

Productivity Goal:  This is the write-the-actual-words goal.  A thousand a day?  Two thousand?  If I want to get a five thousand word short story written in first draft form in one week’s time, then I have to hit my target of a thousand words per day.  If I write more, great!

There is always something I can accomplish, no matter what my frame of mind might be.  If I want to be successful as a writer, both on the personal and the professional levels, then I have to get the story or novel written, clean it up, and get it out to market.  If I keep my sights set on today, I won’t feel so overwhelmed.  Today plus today plus today adds up.  A thousand words per day five days a week for twenty weeks or five months equals one hundred thousand words, which is a four hundred page novel.

Keeping those lists of Process goals and Productivity goals is my way of making sure that no matter what kind of mood I’m in, there will be something I can muster up the motivation to accomplish.  Once I’ve overcome the inertia of not being “in the mood,” I can build some momentum and get the work done.

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Filed under Family, fantasy, Fiction, Writing