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Category: writing

What is this “book” thing the hipsters keep tweeting about?

While I was procrastinating further on writing the pitch for Community Klepto tonight, I decided to go through my Twitter list of publishing people. It’s a list that I’ve been building ever since I joined Twitter, which Twitter tells me was 7 years ago, so most of the accounts I’ve followed on that list about about as old as I am, in Twitter years. As I opened profile after profile, URL after URL, I had waves of mixed emotions as I saw the following:

  • 404 Not Found
  • Domain for sale
  • We have ceased operations
  • We are no longer accepting new submissions

I admit that between switching careers and giving birth to two children on the same day, I haven’t kept up with all the happenings in the publishing industry like I maybe should have; but at the same time, I think I can outline the trajectory of the 7 year Kelly’s-Twitter-publisher-list timeline easily enough:

  1. E-books happen. Some publishers resist all changes. Others pop up looking to cash in early.
  2. E-books gain popularity. Some publishers still resist all changes. Others adapt and innovate. Shitty books get self-published.
  3. E-books soar. Some of the publishers who resisted all changes die. Some who adapted and innovated succeed, some don’t. More shitty books get self-published. Readers start to realize most of the free books they downloaded are shitty.
  4. E-books sales to fall off. The resistors shout that they were right, even as they continue to publish marketable turd sandwiches. Authors of shitty books stop making money on their shitty books. Some of the innovative co-op ventures find they are no longer viable.
  5. Hipsters make physical books cool again. Resistors decry TOLD YA SO. Everyone else is saying Now what?

Now what. Some publishers have died horrible deaths because they refused to innovate. Some died because they were counting on a fad to sustain its growth indefinitely. This is a sad but predictable reality. Some of weathered the storms, adapted where they needed to, and are doing really cool things now. This makes me happy and excited to see what’s next.

I’m not going to go so far as to say that e-books were a fad. I mean, I still read them so they must be cool, right? And I like the papercut and smell of an old book as much as the next hipster. But in a world where evolving technology is changing every industry, publishing is not immune. Their battles for market share aren’t over, even if the e-book is losing ground. The future may be uncertain, but I am certain that as more traditional publishers broaden their horizons (and re-open their wallets), it’s a good time for me to be diving back in.

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Running on empty, not on fleek #MondayBlogs

On top of finishing my third novel, working a full time job, and taking care of two 10-month-olds, I have also recently been training for the Austin half-marathon, which I ran last weekend. By ran, sadly, I mean I injured a muscle in my back in the lamest way possible a couple days before the race, got to run about 5 minutes before my body compelled me to wuss out, and got to walk my gimpy ass back to the car. Not my finest moment. In fact, it was even worse than the day during training that I needed to complete a 7-mile run…

Unlike my protagonist in COMMUNITY KLEPTO, I much prefer running trails to running on pavement or even worse, surrounded by four walls and digital beeps. There is a relatively new trail (it’s been there for quite some time, but the city only recently made it official) that I’d been wanting to try out so I decided to drive to the trailhead and do my long run for the week there. I was curious to explore it A) because the trail connects to the one that leads to my office B) to see if it was a stroller friendly trail I could take the girls on sometime. (I’ll spare you the suspense. It’s not, and that will not happen for many years, if ever.) I parked the car with my full set of keys inside and took my spare car key with me, tucked securely in my flipbelt along with my phone, ID and – in case of emergency – my medical insurance card.

As soon as I finished stretching out and started jogging on the trail, it started raining. It had rained the day before, too, but I’ve always found running in the rain to be masochistically exhilarating so I just kept going. Within two minutes, I hit my first “low-water crossing,” where the creek was running over the trail. I managed to hop over some rocks sticking up out of the creek and got right back to running. It was about a minute before I hit another one. Then another. Then another. About this time, I said screw it and just decided to start running through the water. After all, it might pour rain the day of the half marathon (it didn’t) and I needed to train for every possibility. Plus if I tried to pussyfoot around every low-water crossing, all of which were completely submerged by the creek, I’d be running for half the day. I splashed through a couple more sections of trail covered by the creek when I hit a crossing so low that water was rushing right up around my knees. I was determined to stay undeterred, so I started jogging through it.

And that’s when I fell in the creek. I didn’t go completely under, but got everything below the waist and the entire right side of my upper body submerged. As I trudged myself up out of the water, my first instinct was to pull out my phone and make sure it was okay. Plus I needed to check my GPS tracker. It hadn’t told me I’d gone a full mile yet, and I definitely felt like I’d done at least a mile. My phone was fine, and it informed me I’d almost gone one mile. Just 6 more to go! About this time, I was feeling dejected from falling in the creek and continuing to get rained on, and I started to consider taking a mulligan and trying again next week. But then, just as I turned around to go back to the car, the opening lines of Beyonce’s Halo started playing in my ears, and it was as though Queen Bey herself was lifting me up out of the creek, cheering me on to keep going.

So I pressed on, running through a few more low-water crossings like an excited toddler before I finally reached the part of the trail on higher ground and hit my stride (meaning a faster than 16-minute mile, which is how long that first one took). Things were going great right up until I hit the section of the trail where I believe the intention was to become Spider-Man to get across…

I later discovered that there used to be a bridge here but it got washed out by a freak storm. Of course the knowledge did not help me at the time, and I was forced to find another way to cross the water. This is when I started to veer wildly off the trail. I found myself dodging vines and trying to avoid tripping over fallen tree branches, but I was 3 or so miles in and I wasn’t getting rained on anymore, so I counted it as an adventure. Or I did right up until one of the vines ripped a hole in the ass of my brand new running pants.

This was where I had to pull out my phone again, see how hopelessly lost I was, and backtrack my way to the broken bridge. That super squiggly part on the map? That’s me, post-butt-hole.

The trip back to the car was far less eventful, having familiarized myself with the trail. It also went a lot quicker than I expected, so when I reached the trailhead where I entered, I realized I was still a mile short of my goal. Since I still had Beyonce as my ear-cheerleader, I was not motivated to cut my run short. That loop on the opposite end of the map? That’s me running laps around a liquor store. Classy.

I get back to my car, proud of myself for completing the full run despite the many adventurous obstacles thrown at me along the way, and go to pull my spare car key out of my Flipbelt only to discover it isn’t there. No worries, I think, knowing that the other set is in the car and whenever the key is in range, the hatchback can be opened. There must be a time limit on that convenience feature (that’s less than 1:33), because that didn’t work either. I ended up calling AAA and waiting in the parking lot of a liquor store with part of my butt poking out until the guy showed up to rescue me.

So, I ended my run 7 miles richer and one car key poorer, and I didn’t even get to run the damn half-marathon anyway. So much for my glorious post-pregnancy comeback! I wouldn’t even be able to write this kind of scenario up for my Community Klepto character because it would be completely unbelievable as fiction, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t recount it for y’all. Like Beyonce said, a little sweat ain’t never hurt nobody. I guess my glorious comeback will just have to come in the form of my next novel…

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Dead tree editing redux! #MondayBlogs

It’s been only since the Jurassic era that I last blogged, but that’s life with 9-month-old twins, who just happen to be simultaneously napping for maybe another 10 minutes.

So what have I been up to besides channeling my inner moo-cow and changing poopy diapers for the last 18 months? Believe it or not, I’ve actually been making a great deal of progress on editing my third novel – working title Community Klepto. The latest thing I did in the editing process is a step I have not taken before, but now that I did it I am inordinately glad I did. I edited a complete “dead tree” version of the book – meaning I went to Kinko’s, had computer them make a spiral bound paper copy of it, and used that for a cover-to-cover read-through/edit.

I’ve done straight readthroughs on both computer and Kindle screen and found there to be some definite benefits I hadn’t experienced before by doing this on paper – things I think will definitely make it a better book.

1. Relative spine thickness

This seems obvious, but looking at my word count in a document file is one thing. Seeing the thickness of your book spiral bound is another. It didn’t sound like a long book when I said the word count out loud, but I was shocked when I saw how thick it was printed out. Holy crap I wrote a big ass book!

2. Stale jokes

I found several places where I thought I was being high-larious, but it turns out past me was already high-larious. Since I went through the chapter edits one by one, I missed a lot of instances where I repeated the same jokes twice, sometimes even three times.

3. Missing words

For some reason, these just seem to jump out on the printed page so much more than they do on a screen. Since my brain wrote over them once, it tends to read over them a second time. It wasn’t until I read through again on a tactile page that I found a few more of these

4. Awkward chapter breaks

Again, since my previous round of edits was chapter by chapter, I wasn’t able to see how smooth the transition was from the end of one chapter to the beginning of the next one. When I find myself struggling to figure out where to end a chapter, I just cut it off when I think it starts to get awkward. This wasn’t as graceful as I’d hope in some spots.

I definitely think this process will make Community Klepto a better book. Now I just need to go incorporate all my bright orange chicken scratches on a screen once more.

So what else have I been up to? Besides diapers and bottles and snot suckers? We’ve been training for the Austin half-marathon, which has helped me channel my protagonist even more. I’ve had some interesting experiences with some of my training runs… but that’s a story for later.

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Second draft, part of the craft #amediting #MondayBlogs

Amidst a weekend otherwise consumed by massive flooding and tornado warnings every ten minutes (which my husband had to inform me about because I was too focused on rabid writing), I finished the first draft of my third novel, working title Community Klepto on Memorial Day. As such, I am now going back to the beginning to start revising what will eventually be my second draft, and going through the mile-high stack of critiques I have amassed from my workshop group thus far (pictured).

In the short time since Memorial Day and revising the first chapter, I have made the following observations about my third novel:

1) This started out rough. Like, really rough.

When I started this book, I had only a vague idea of who the character was and what the story was going to be. I started this weird fourth wall narrative kind of thing where my character was talking to the reader, and it just didn’t work. Luckily, my drunken muse took over at some point.

2) I wasn’t afraid to go big quickly.

This book is about being playful with gymgoer archetypes and stealing things, and my character isn’t afraid to do both in the first chapter. I say thrust the reader in like a warm dildo; at least then, they know what they’re getting into.

3) This is gonna take awhile.

For any of the three hardcore Kelly I. Hitchcock fanclubber types out there anxiously awaiting my next release, thinking it will be any time soon, you are sadly mistaken. This is but one chapter out of 24, so I have my work cut out for me. Besides, I’d really be doing you a disservice if I didn’t edit the fuck out of this book before bestowing it upon the masses.

Some people have asked me whether I am going to start querying publishers immediately now that I am done with the first draft. My answer is, for now, no. I want to get this manuscript as polished off as a bottle of good Pinot Noir before I even attempt to send it off to a publisher whose editor would inevitably be all like, “What is this rough turd?”

So be patient with me, as this will be a long lonely process of editing loneliness, but will be so worth it in the end, because I think this is my best work yet. Also be nice to me because it’s my birthday, bitches.

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The 5 stages of nearly losing a manuscript file

At some point in any writer’s career, he or she has the hapless realization that a manuscript into which blood, sweat, tears, caffeine, and other vices were poured into is GONE – whether through erroneous deletion, #technologyandstuff #fail, or act of gods.

I had one such moment last week with the novel that I’m 51,000+ words into (working title COMMUNITY KLEPTO for those not in the know of all things Kelly I. Hitchcock). Its primary storage location was on our family NAS (network-addressed storage) device, which my husband – who is vastly superior in the realm of tech savviness – informed me underwent and update and subsequently crashed. Below is an account of the 5 stages of anxiety I experienced at this news and prospect of losing my manuscript.

Phase 1: Overhear spouse downplaying outage

“The device is down, but I don’t think there’s anything important on there…”

YES HUH! IS TOO! Okay, so maybe I shouldn’t be using the NAS as my primary location for my 50,000+ word manuscript, but it’s a little late for that.

Phase 2: Realize the last time you backed up drives was 5 months ago

We have a pretty retentive backup system that involves swapping out the drives every so often and putting the backups in a safe deposit box at our bank. Somehow, though, we hadn’t done this since before we left for Christmas vacation and other things besides running the backup were top of mind.

Phase 3: Realize your local backup is 4 months old

So at one point there was a time that I needed to work on my manuscript offline, but that time was four months ago and I had written several chapters since then, which pretty much made my local copy useless. Phase 3.1: eat an entire bag of potato chips while crying.

Phase 4: View stack of printed chapters with lament

While the prospect of losing four months worth of work is almost unbearable, the idea of re-typing your lost chapters using only the stack of printed chapter-by-chapter manuscripts you’ve been bringing to your workshop group is somehow worse.

Phase 5: Restart device and hope for the best

This phase took some time and it’s a bit like waiting for water to boil while watching it. “I see green lights. That’s good right?!” Then watch the cursor spin and spin and spin as you wait for all the file folders to load up so you can navigate down the 12 levels you need to in order to get to the one file you care about.

Phase 6: Dodge a bullet

When you finally get down to the file itself and see that the modified date was a mere two hours ago, you can indeed breathe a sigh of relief, knowing your work for the past four months hasn’t been obliterated as happens in your worst nightmares. When you’re finally done wiping your forehead sweat away, slowing your heart rate, and downing a couple shots of tequila, move on to the next phases to ensure this never happens again.

Phase 7: Back up locally

After all, this is where you should have been working in the first place. The network device is where you should be backing up to after you bang some words out. Besides, Micro$oft Word will be more performant locally anyway.

Phase 8: To the cloud!

No, don’t go take a bong hit. Download Dropbox (if you don’t have it) and enable two-factor authentication before creating another backup in the cloud that you can use in the event of nuclear disaster. You’ve learned your lesson, after all, and you can use all the help you can get to make sure you never have to deal with this again.

Needless to say, the last four chapters I write will be completed with far more intention to disaster recovery. And hopefully they won’t be a disaster themselves.

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In search of a genre

I’m always impressed by how specific writers in certain genre and non-fiction can be with pinpointing their sub-genres: paranormal romance, slipstream mystery, speculative post-cyberpunk, satirical basketweaving history. For me though, this is an area that I’ve always struggled with. As I get closer and closer to finishing Community Klepto, I’ve been challenged by people both inside and outside the literary community to be more specific about how I classify my own genre; trouble is, the genres I’ve always considered myself to most closely identify with aren’t at all specific

Literary fiction

Thanks to the infallibility of Wikipedia, I can actually give a definition of what this means for people who don’t know what this means, which is most people. Now when people ask me “What type of books do you write?” and react with confused puppy dog faces when I say “literary fiction,” I can tell them that I write:

“…fictional works that possess commonly held qualities to readers outside genre fiction. Literary fiction has been defined as any fiction that attempts to engage with one or more truths or questions, hence relevant to a broad scope of humanity as a form of expression.”

Clear as mud, right? And sadly, those who do know what literary fiction is typically have a negative opinion of it. They see it as plotless drivel that only university professors to teach grad students to write more literary fiction could appreciate.

Women’s fiction

In the past when I’ve described my work as “women’s fiction,” I’ve been met with “Oh, so romance?” Why, if a book is written with strong female characters and a female audience in mind, do people jump to the conclusion that it’s a romance novel capable of hosting a male Fabio and a scantily clad lady in a heaving bodice on the cover? It’s not as though all women read nothing but stories about sexual tension and romantic entanglements. Nothing I write could be further from this; for one thing, I have far too immature a sense of humor to write sexytime scenes.

Still, this seems like such a broad label to apply to works that can be so different in nature. At least I have Wikipedia to back me up on this one:

“These stories may have romance. Or they may not. They could be contemporary. Or historical. But what binds them together is the focus on a woman’s emotional journey.”

Contemporary fiction

Again, a genre I feel fits my work but is so vague it’s useless in classifying it. Any work of fiction that’s happening in contemporary times could be classified as “contemporary fiction,” even if it’s got a woman in a heaving bodice frenching a cyborg on the cover.

True or not, I don’t know that any reader ever sets out to pick out something with the contemporary fiction label on it.

Literary humor

My latest book is meant to be a humor work that riffs on the tropes people find at the gym, but it’s told through a literary lens with elevated prose. You know, fart jokes told by painfully introspective fuddy-duddies. Humor can be smart and raunchy at the same time, right?

But is this a genre that’s specific enough for readers, something they actually seek out? Will they stop reading if they’re not bursting at the seams with laughter after the first page?

Chick lit

If none of my female characters have their storylines driven by male love interests or shopping for designer clothes, can my work still be considered part of this genre? After all, my books do fit the bill according to our friend Wikipedia:

“Chick lit is genre fiction which addresses issues of modern womanhood, often humorously and lightheartedly.”

My problem with labeling my work this way is that I don’t see shoe shopping as a real issue of modern womanhood (although I do have a $10 credit at DSW burning a hole in my pocket).

 

Maybe I could just create my own hybrid genre label from a combination of all of these. Does Contempowomen’s Lithumor sound like something you’d go looking for in a bookstore?

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The Importance of Being Earnest (with shameless self-promotion)

I know I’m not the only one who has that one Facebook friend who always seems to be selling whatever the latest fad is and wants everyone to know ALL about it, multiple times per day. For my part, I can tell you that at any given moment, I am actively hiding posts from people inviting me to buy Jamberry (crap for nails), Thirty-One (crap to put your crap in), Pampered Chef (kitchen crap), Premier Designs (blingy crap), Nerium (expensive skin crap), or wanting me to visit their Etsy store, their DJ set, their band’s show at a seedy bar on the opposite end of town on a Tuesday night at 11 PM… you name it. Earlier this week, I got a notification from a family member I see maybe once a year, inviting me to buy from his girlfriend’s Etsy store because she makes beautiful baby and toddler gear. Dear family member, I’m not even a damned parent, but I’ve been trying to become one for nearly a year now, so you are particularly disconcerting and annoying to me at this moment.

As authors, we have a duty to not be a disconcerting, annoying, rotten spammer when we promote our work to the people we know. If there’s anything you can do to lose friends and alienate people quickly, it’s to assume that your work is for everyone. It’s not. You can’t assume that just because people know you, they can’t wait to run out and support you by buying your novel about a crime-solving lesbian urologist. Not everyone likes mysteries. Not everyone likes lesbians. Not everyone likes characters who also happen to be penis doctors. Just because you happen to go way back personally, it doesn’t mean your friends want to be bombarded with your commercial endeavors. If you were constantly being pushed to buy something that didn’t apply to you in the least bit, you’d get annoyed after a while, too.

Knowing you personally and liking you isn’t enough. Shameless self-promotion is only effective when it’s used on people who like you AND actually stand a snowball’s chance in hell of reading and enjoying your work. For everyone else, you should be respectful of their annoyance levels and create a separate author page on which to shamelessly self-promote. The people who are genuinely interested in your work will follow and won’t mind when you spam them with your latest cover concept art or work in progress word count. Don’t be the family member who annoys everyone with your shameless self-promotion. You’re better off trying to build a relationship with a stranger than to keep annoying your friends who haven’t seen the inside of a book in years.

Also, I’m having a Tupperware party later this month and I really need all of you to be there so I can more host credit and buy more shit!

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Cause I’ve got a bad habit…

January is the month where two things are certain – everyone is focusing on New Year’s Resolutions, and everyone’s crowding the hell out of the gym (but more on that later). I’ve never really been one for resolutions; I’m more one to focus on something more tangible: goals and habits.

Everyone knows that habits are hard to form, and even more difficult to break. For all the habits I have around writing, I don’t make a habit of actually sitting down to write, which was by far my biggest cause of falling short of my writing goals last year. So it goes without saying that creating this habit is one of my primary goals for the year.

It’s amazing how powerful habits can be. Years ago, my writing routine looked something like this:

– Shut off all the lights in the house

– Find a playlist of music I can write to (this was the era before Pandora and SomaFM.com)

– Pull up the manuscript document

– Grab an ash tray, because I was about to chain smoke a lot of cigarettes

Then I decided to break a bad habit and quit smoking. I beat the habit, even overcoming the overwhelming desire to smoke after meals, while drinking, and in the car. But then a weird thing happened; I’d sit down to write, and become completely paralyzed without a cigarette in one hand. My brain wouldn’t let the words flow onto the page without a steady stream of nicotine to help them along.

I traded in one bad habit for another (no one’s ever done that, right?); I stopped smoking and I stopped writing. I was convinced that I’d never be able to write another word without smoking, until one day I realized just how ri-goddamned-diculous I sounded to myself. Like forming any habit, I just needed to put on my big girl panties, stop making excuses, and keep writing without smoking until it felt natural. Did I do it? You’re damned right I did.

Now my writing routine looks something more like this:

– Put the teakettle on

– Open all the windows to let the natural light in

– Turn on a Pandora or SomaFM.com station

– Pull up the manuscript document

Next step? Make it a habit to bring daily writing into my routine, even if it’s just to sit down in front of the screen and derp some words around only to delete them minutes later. That is, until I have to kick the caffeine habit, at which time I’ll have to revisit my routine all over again…

How about you? What bad habit do you have when it comes to your writing that you’d like to break? What bad habits have you broken? What good habits have you put into place?

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On Karma (and other celestialisms)

We’re told from the time we’re in kindergarten to obey the golden rule and treat others like we’d want to be treated. Sometime later, we learn the concept of karma, that if we do right by other people, the universe will do right by us and that the opposite is true also.

If there’s ever a karmic area where I’ve gotten my comeuppance, it’s smoking. I smoked many years ago, for many years, and I did all the annoying things smokers do. I smoked right outside the doorways of buildings. I smoked in large crowds with children in them at concerts. I smoked in places where no smoking signs were posted. I tossed cigarette butts out my car window. I once even had a neighbor kindly ask if I would stop smoking in my bedroom, which was across the wall from his closet and made his clothes stink. Instead of being nice and cease-desisting, I did it more, because asshole.

Now that I’m 7 years removed from my smoking habit, it’s like everywhere I go, I am surrounded by smokers. Being in Austin, we go to a lot of concerts, and it never fails that once I stake out a spot, the person next to me starts blowing smoke in my face. Every time I walk from my car to the office, there is someone smoking (in the same non-designated smoking area I would have previously occupied) in my path. Outdoor patio? You can guarantee the person who comes along and occupies the table next to me will light up. And having done it in a past life, I’m so revolted by it now that for the life of me I can’t imagine how I ever did it. I also feel bad for every guy who ever made out with me, but some of that is for other reasons…

My point – karma is real. As a writer, every time I review a fellow author’s work, I try to remember the rules of karma. After all, there’s a real person on the end of that review–a real person who put their heart and soul into writing the book I’m reviewing. When I read something especially terrible, I admit that there are times I want to personally attack the author for writing something so abysmally bad, but that’s only after I want to punch myself for reading the entire thing. Still, I don’t. I don’t because that’s no way to treat people and I would cry a lot if someone did that to me. I also don’t punch myself, because I bruise easily.

At the same time, I am honest about my reviews, because I would want a reader to do the same for me. If I don’t like something, I’ll say it (and try to focus on the plot elements or characters that didn’t work for me). If I really enjoy something, I’ll say that too. There’s a way to be substantive in literary criticism without resorting to nasty speech or personal attacks (but yeah, it’s hard sometimes).

So the next time you’re getting ready to write a review of a book, think about karma and do the right thing. Be the bigger person. You see that, Universe? I’m being the bigger goddamned person. Now please seat me in the non-smoking section.

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My life hacks

Lately I’ve seen a lot of authors sharing their own lists of personal tips and tricks for winning at life – or life hacks. This got me thinking about the things I do to keep my life on track with my goals, both personal and professional. Maybe some of these can work for you, too, whether you’re an author or not. Here are mine!

1) Keep a dry-erase marker in the car

I live in Austin, which has the 4th worst traffic in the US. Especially before I started my new day job 5 miles away from my home (which still takes 30-45 minutes some days), I spent a LOT of time in my car. Chances are, you probably do too, and if you’re an author, you sometimes get your best ideas while you’re stuck in traffic or flying down the highway, when it’s least convenient to pull out your Moleskine and jot the idea down before you forget. How I combat this is to keep a dry erase marker in the car and scribble the ideas on the window (usually in short hand). A nice bonus – you can also take down license plate numbers of law breakers instead of trying in vain to commit them to memory.

2) #AlwaysBeReading

Everyone benefits from being well read, but no one benefits more than authors do. Reading more makes you a better writer, but it’s hard to find time to read between career, family, and extracurricular duties. I’ve found that I read more when I make my reading complement these duties, not replace them. Spending an hour in your car every day? Putting away a week’s worth of laundry? (Doing anything you’d really rather not be doing?) Listen to an audiobook. Hitting the elliptical machine at the gym? Waiting for your doctor to show up for your scheduled appointment? Pull out your e-reader. Trying to sleep and instead letting your mind race? Open a paperback. When I started reading across these 3 platforms, I found I read twice as many books that year than I did the one before it.

3) Take care of yourself

Make time to exercise. Period. No excuses. Endorphins are nature’s anti-depressants and you can still do wasteful things like binge watching Breaking Bad while working out (but you can also read a book). Life is short, but it’s even shorter when you’re unhealthy, and it’s my experience that running a great writer’s block buster.

4) #DontReadTheComments

This is a tough one for me. I read something that pushes all my buttons and raises all my hackles, and I can’t just stop at the end of the article; I scroll on down and start reading the comments to see what other people think. Why do I do this? I don’t know that I can pinpoint a reason other than that I am a masochist. I don’t particularly care about the opinions of complete strangers, and I hate being reminded of how ignorant, hateful, and rude people can be behind the anonymity veil the internet provides. As such, I’m making a concerted effort to #dontreadthecomments (except those on my own posts and sites, of course).

5) Feed your muse with music

Right now I am writing a book that primarily takes place in the gym, so when I am writing, I put on the cheesy upbeat mashup music my cardio kickboxing instructor plays in class to get me in the right mindset. Whatever you’re writing about, pair some thematic music to go with it. If nothing really matches, I recommend Groove Salad on somafm.com. It’s a great downtempo station that will keep you in the zone while you crank up the word count.

6) #ScheduleYourTweets

Yes, you should also tweet in the moment when brilliantly witty things (or funny cat videos) come to you, but you should also use tools like Hootsuite or Tweetdeck (I use Tweetdeck) to space out some scheduled tweets throughout the week that keep you talking and visible. Remember that as an author, you market yourself, not necessarily your books, and silence is kin to invisibility. (I stole this life hack from @RachelintheOC. She’s kind of an author PR genius and you should listen to everything she says – especially the parts about Nutella.)

7) Schedule your blog posts

Any blogging software worth a damn includes functionality for saving drafts of posts and scheduling them to publish at the time of your choosing. So when you get inspired about a topic, go slap some words on a page, come back to it and refine the idea when you want, and post it when you want. In my better days, I’ve written blog posts for an entire month in one day and scheduled them to post once a week. I wrote this one yesterday; I don’t get up and write at 6 AM because I am not that productive of a person. There are lots of commercials in a football game…

8) Leave your work computer at work

I’ve been guilty of bringing my work home with me, usually because I was taking on too much and was already doing the work of two people. I don’t have those jobs anymore, because I place too much value on keeping my professional and personal lives separate. I’ve always had a work laptop specifically designed for portability, but that doesn’t mean you can’t leave it at the office. For me, having my work laptop at home in the evenings is too much of a temptation to work ahead when I should be working on something personal, spending time with my family, or joyfully wasting time. Now I only bring it home on the weekends in case something happens (like ebola) and I have to work from home.

9) Don’t put work email on your personal phone

Unless you have to or are expected to. If your day job doesn’t come with the expectation that you be available 24/7 and respond to every email immediately – don’t. Say it with me now – it can wait ’til morning (or Monday). Your evenings and weekends are yours, not your employer’s. If you’re anything like me, you check personal email on your phone obsessively enough as it is, you don’t need work email invading your personal life, especially when half the emails are auto-generated crap you batch delete on Monday morning anyway.

10) #CleanAsYouGo

Anyone who’s ever worked in the restaurant industry has had this mantra permanently etched into their being. As much as I hated hearing it from front of house managers who let the most infinitesimal amount of power go to their heads, it’s true. You’ll spend less time cleaning if you can fit in loading the dishwasher while you’re waiting for that water to boil, wiping down the bathroom counter while you’re waiting for the shower water to warm up, etc. Clean as you go, and you won’t have to go clean later. Or not as much, anyway.

That’s for my life hacks! What are yours?

Remember, time you enjoy wasting isn’t wasted time.

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