The Writing Calendar

By Kathy Dunnehoff

I’m a cheater, and I bet you are too.

I hope you’re still reading after that. Let me explain… Humans, all of us, have a great capacity to fool ourselves into thinking that we’re doing better than we are. Did you eat enough vegetables yesterday? Uh, yeah, pretty sure I had a salad. Well, maybe that was last Tuesday.

You see where I’m going with this? As a person wanting health, this inaccurate recollection of how we’re doing can have some serious implications. If your goal is to exercise four times a week, you may think you came close with three times, but the reality may be that you worked out three times this month.

As a writer, this questionable ability to kid myself was not helping me at all, so I decided to hold myself accountable in a new way. I used one of those free calendars everyone gives you in January, and I made a writing calendar. It sits where I write, and at the end of a writing session, I record how long I wrote and what I accomplished. writing calendar

At a glance, it becomes very clear to me how I’m doing. Sometimes when I think I’ve only skipped one writing morning, I’m shocked to see that it’s been two or even three, and I get back at it.

I think a calendar, whether a lovely freebie from a local florist or an electronic version, can become a twelve-month accountability partner in whatever you want to accomplish. Try making one for a habit you’d like to nurture. Exercise? Playing your ukulele? (I need one of those), cooking more meals at home?

I think you’ll find, as I did, that you’re a cheater, but with a little accountability, you can be true to whatever goals are near and dear to you.

 

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Finishing

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Do you have a few unfinished projects lying around? I don’t mean an unfinished sweater you started knitting years ago or clothes to wash. I mean writing projects. For a writer, life is complex. Traveling and going off on a hike with friends are important. Experience is the basis of good writing, but writers must take the time to write. Prioritizing is part of getting things done.

Last year, I set a goal to finish four novels I had written over the past two decades. While writing the novels, I felt compelled to complete three nonfiction books first and published them on Amazon. I edited the novels numerous times and received helpful edits from my critique partners. Then, hired a professional editor. Once she returned them, it meant more editing. So, for the past year I focused on finalizing the novels.

Writing The End of a first draft was a great achievement but then the real work began. If you consider a novel in the 80,000-word range, writing 350 words a day for 228 days would bring you to The End of the first draft. If you are aiming for 100,000 for your genre, you’d finish in a year. That is less than one page of single-spaced manuscript per day.

Some days are more productive than others. I am often up before dawn writing because mornings are my most productive time of day. Find your best time. Most writers can’t write every day, but on days they don’t put words on paper, the stories evolve and solidify in their thoughts.

Rewriting and editing are tedious but must be done to perfection before you query an agent or indie-publish on Amazon or one of many other platforms. After all your personal focus and hours, you may be blinded to serious problems in the storyline or unclear word choices. It is still essential to enlist beta-readers who are voracious readers in the genre and not family members. The hope is to identify problem areas you have not recognized before you proceed to publication.

Whether you are writing fiction or nonfiction, your job is to never bore the reader. Information in a nonfiction work or the story in your novel must be engaging and keep the reader reading. Attending writer conferences, taking classes and participating in online writing skills webinars can be valuable. Many are free, but usually, in the end, will try to sell you something.

Each year, November is National Novel Writing Month; NaNoWriMo for short. If you need a push to finish a project or start a new one, this may be for you. Locally, at Flathead Valley Community College, Kathy Dunnehoff is presenting Novel Challenge. Beginning October 30 for five sessions. She will discuss the craft of writing and how to keep words flowing for the month of November. With concentrated effort you can finish a first draft during the class.

Dennis Foley is teaching Writing the First Novel during fall semester. Check out the online brochure at FVCC, Creative Writing. Authors

The annual Flathead River Writers Conference is September 22 and 23 at FVCC where you can learn from both Kathy and Dennis along with other publishing industry professionals. The brochure and online registration are available: https://www.authorsoftheflathead.org.

Happy writing and reading. Hope to see you at the conference.

Betty Kuffel

And Now for Something Different

Ann Minnett MWW photoBy Ann Minnett

 

I had the great pleasure to take Kathy Dunnehoff’s Screenwriting class at FVCC in May. She’s taught for twenty-five years but still managed to be enthusiastic and involved with our class. Great feedback and handouts, too! Guest speaker Dennis Foley was a plus.

Kathy inspired me to give screenwriting a try.

I use Scrivener for my novels, and it features a scriptwriting template. Even with that assist, the screenwriting format is initially clunky, and I tend to add details of a novel (a big NO). Nonetheless, I’m writing a screenplay based on my second novel, Serita’s Shelf Life. The novel is funny, sad and sometimes crazy, but readers love the main character. She might translate well to film. About a third of the way into the story, her flamboyance is coming through on the script’s pages.

We’ll see if I have the aptitude. In the meantime, this writer’s having fun getting back into Serita’s head and imagining her on the big screen.

FINAL TURQUOISE FONT COVER

Happy Mother’s Day!

By Kathy Dunnehoff

Spring Break with girls 2015

 

 

 

 

With my girls, Grace & Ava!

Happy Mother’s day to all the women who have cared for and about others. I feel confident that’s all of us!

We may not have all held a crying baby all night, but we’ve still mothered plenty. We’ve hugged and held hands, gotten after and gotten silly with the people we love. We’ve said, “I understand.” Or “I don’t understand, but I want to.” And when completely necessary, “Knock that off right now!”

I hope too that we’ve let others mother us on occasion. I hope that we’ve cried and complained to someone who takes our side no matter what and later is honest enough to tell us we have the power to change what needs changing.

I hope that we all have someone in our lives who won’t let us get away with being too hard on ourselves or saying, “I’m fine” when we’re not, or settling for less than we deserve.

 This Mother’s Day may we keep on sharing our unique gifts with others and also happily accept a few in return.

Kathy

P.S. If you’re in the Flathead Valley, join me on Wednesday May 13th at 6:00 at the Lakeside Library for a talk on “Agents, Editors, and Amazon… Oh, My!”

Ch…ch…ch…ch…changes

By Kathy Dunnehoff

Well, this title is from the David Bowie song “Changes” which has been rolling around in my head for a while. It seems that I’m in one of those stages of life where a lot is changing, whether I want it to or not. Many of the changes, like spring springing, are good ones. I’m happy to be in a new decade of life and hope I get a bunch more. I’m happy that my girls are growing into amazing young women. I’m happy that my husband and I get date nights, and we only have to worry about the dog.

Some people are big fans of change. I have a friend who loves change so much, she sleeps different ways in her bed just to get another view. This is what I’d like to be able to do in the face of change…

“Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.”  Lao Tzu

But instead of channeling ancient wisdom, I’m more of a Garth from the movie “Wayne’s World.” (Typical that I would feel like a low budget comedy.)

Wayne's world We Fear Change

I know, I know! I shouldn’t fear change. I should embrace it, celebrate it, get all Zen with it. And I will. Eventually. But for right now, I’m going to enjoy the change of winter to spring but drag my feet a little bit about everything else.

Happy Spring!

Kathy

(If you’re interested in making a change in your writing life, I’ve got some classes coming up at Flathead Valley Community College and that won’t change 🙂

Writing in the Workplace     (1 session)

  • Grammar Refresher – April 28           12-1:30 p.m.                              $20
  • The Easy Writing System – May 5 12-1:30 p.m.                              $20
  • Editing Tips & Tricks – May 12 12-1:30 p.m.                              $20

Introduction to Screenwriting     (4 weeks)

Learn the fundamentals from ideas to scenes to understanding the basic structure of a screenplay.

Tuesdays               May 5-May 26                           6-8:30 p.m.                      $64

Everyday Creative Writing      (4 weeks)

With guided exercises, it’s easy to capture everyday creative writing.

Mondays                June 8-June 29                          2-4 p.m.                           $54

The Write Plan     (1 session)

Develop the business skills necessary to help your writing career succeed!  Learn to track finances, prioritize key resources and activities, and identify and utilize avenues to get to your readers.

Tuesday                 June 16                                     5:30-8:30 p.m.                 $45

Register online www.fvcc.edu or call the Continuing Education Center (406) 756-3832