On Creating (Flexible) Schedules

Photo credit: RHiNO NEAL on Flickr
So a couple days ago, I tweeted a realization I had about just how incredibly busy I'll be in November. I suppose I already knew that logically, but after picking up a part time job, remembering NaNo is days away, and booking editing clients for next month, it all started to sink in. But it was a good realization—because while my schedule will be, let's face it, a lot, it's all stuff I really enjoy doing.

The tweet, however, inevitably led to people asking me how I plan to manage it all, which got me thinking about scheduling, yes, but more specifically flexible scheduling to make the most of my time every day.

I've written before about how I'm a morning person and get most of my writing done then. This worked well when I had afternoon classes or worked nights as a waitress—I got all my writing done in the early morning hours then tackled whatever commitments I needed to get done. Looking at my schedule for the first week of NaNo, however...I can already see that's going to be a little more challenging.

Right now, out of the first six days of NaNo, I have commitments in the morning on three days. I'm getting the sense this is probably going to be a common thing next month, so I've already started making necessary plans to fit everything into my schedule. The building block for busiest days next month will probably look something like this:

5:15 AM: WAKE UP (I've been getting lazy with this and pushing this closer to 6AM, but next month I need to be stricter about it because I'm going to need the time.) 
5:30 - 7:15 AM: Write, blog/vlog stuff 
7:15 - 8:30 AM: Get ready for day's commitments 
[Do day stuff] 
2:00 PM - ???: Editing work, work out, whatever else I need done for the day.

This of course is a really rough sketch and will need to be adjusted daily depending on my needs for the day, but I find that it helps to plan out my busiest days, so that on days I have extra time or more flexible hours, great, but if not I know I can still squeeze in what I need to. I'm also thinking it might be a good idea to plan my blog topics in advance because it tends to take me longer to figure out what to write about than to actually write the post. Maybe I'll even write some posts in advance...hmm.

Then, of course, there's a very important second component to this: built-in breaks. Traditionally, I've established Sundays as my day off, in which I don't allow myself to do any work. This will remain true next month, though I've already decided if I fall behind on my NaNo writing, Sunday is the day I'll allow myself to make it up, mostly because it's work I find the most enjoyable, so I wouldn't stress too much over it. Even if I manage not to fall behind, I'll likely NaNo on a Sunday or two to give myself wiggle room for those days where I just can't squeeze the writing in.

The keys to flexible scheduling, I find, is to plan for the worst (i.e.: least time), take minutes where you can, and be kind to yourself. That last part means don't forget self-care, because when you're in the grind, forgetting self-care can be pretty disastrous. For me that means Sundays (mostly) off. For you it may mean something else—just make sure you don't neglect it.

I'm wishing you guys all the best next month, whether you're NaNoing or not!

Do you use flexible schedules? 

Twitter-sized bites:
Tight on time but want to get some writing done? @Ava_Jae shares tips on making flexible schedules. (Click to tweet)

What Books Must You Read Before 2017?

Photo credit: Lynn Friedman on Flickr
So, incredibly we have just over two months left of 2016 which means, if you're anything like me, you're looking at your reading challenge and laughing nervously about how you're going to read seventeen more books before the end of the year. Or you're looking at your TBR shelf and thinking about what books you want to squeeze in before the New Year. Or both.

I am firmly in the both category and thought it might be fun to talk about what books you guys plan to definitely (try) to read before 2017. Because my list is growing, which is good because those seventeen books aren't going to read themselves.

The books on my list include:

Most of those I either own, have pre-ordered, or have ARCs for, and the rest I plan to hunt down at my library, which I've confirmed are there. And because of course it's totally not too early to be thinking about Christmas list books, I'll be asking for these:

How about you? What do you aim to read before 2017 and/or plan to ask for in December?

Twitter-sized bite:
What are some of your must reads before 2017? Join the discussion on @Ava_Jae's blog. (Click to tweet)

Fixing the First Page Winner #28!

Photo credit: fast1fred on Flickr
Another quick pre-post post to announce the winner of the twenty-eighth fixing the first page feature giveaway!


And the twenty-eighth winner is…


Yay! Congratulations, Lindsey!

Thanks again to all you lovely entrants! If you didn't win, as always, there will be another fixing the first page giveaway in November, so keep an eye out! :)

Vlog: How to Prepare for NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo is a week away! So for those of you scrambling to get ready for the big event, here are some NaNo preparation tips.


What NaNo preparation tips would you add to the list?

Twitter-sized bite:
Getting ready for #NaNoWriMo? Author @Ava_Jae vlogs 5 ways to get ready for the big event. (Click to tweet)

Are Your Characters Flawed?

Photo credit: Jenavieve on Flickr
Every once in a while, I fall into the trap of loving my characters too much. By this I don't mean that I don't put them through hell twice-over—I can't think of a single manuscript where that was a problem for me *insert evil smiley face*—instead, I mean sometimes I forget about something rather important: flaws.

More times than not, this happens for secondary characters—the best friend, the love interest, the people that, for all intents and purposes, you're supposed to love. Sometimes, for these characters, I do such a great job making them lovable that I forget they're not actually supposed to be perfect until a reader pokes me and asks what their flaw is and I can't answer.

Whenever this happens, I open up my copy of The Negative Trait Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi (the geniuses behind The Emotion Thesaurus). It has an enormously long list of possible character flaws, with descriptions of each flaw, what causes it, what it may lead to, etc. which often helps inspire me when it comes to developing flaws that make sense for the character.

And that is the key there: the flaw should fit organically into your character so that it doesn't feel tacked on or ill-fitting. It wouldn't make sense, for example, for Sherlock Holmes to be obtuse or not think through his actions—but his arrogance and bluntness definitely makes sense for who he is.

It's definitely important to remember flaws when creating characters, because characters without them start to feel too perfect—and consequently too unrealistic—if you're not careful. And besides, a character well-balanced with flaws can create new opportunities for tension and conflict, which is always a pretty nice bonus.

What are some of your favorite flawed characters?

Twitter-sized bite: 
Are your characters flawed? @Ava_Jae talks the importance of balanced character development. (Click to tweet)

Discussion: Will You NaNo This Year?

Photo credit: Kwintin on Flickr
There are ten days left before NaNoWriMo (and ten days left to implement pre-NaNo tips)! Which is pretty incredible to think about, and a little intimidating, and also exciting because NaNoWriMo is nearly here!

I finished revising my WIP and sent it off this week, which means I've met my deadline with time to spare, which means NaNoWriMo is in my future this year! YAY! I'm really excited to dive into the new story world and play with third person, which I haven't done in ages, and just feed off the NaNo excitement in general. It's been a great experience when I participated in the past, and I very much look forward to it again. Which also means I should probably start figuring out the last-minute details of the WIP I'll be working on...

So this is a short and fun post just to officially say yes, I do plan to participate this year, and I think it'd be fun for people to connect with other NaNo-ers here on the blog so time for a shout out—who else will be participating this year? (And feel free to add me as a NaNo buddy!)

Twitter-sized bite: 
Are you participating in #NaNoWriMo this year? Join the discussion and make NaNo buddies on @Ava_Jae's blog. (Click to tweet)

Fixing the First Page #28!

Photo credit: Clara T S H on Flickr
I was pretty stunned to realize this week we're already halfway through October, which means November is almost here, which means NaNoWriMo is nearing and, happily, it's time for the twenty-eighth Fixing the First Page feature!

For those who’ve missed before, the Fixing the First Page features is a public first 250 word critique. Using the lovely rafflecopter widget, anyone interested in winning a public (as in, featured in a post on this blog) first page critique can enter.

For an example of what this critique will look like, here's the last Fixing the First Page post.


  • ONLY the first 250 words will be critiqued (up to finishing the sentence). If you win and send me more, I will crop it myself. No exceptions.

  • ONLY the first page. I don’t want 250 random words from your manuscript, or from chapter 3. If you win the critique and send me anything other than the first 250 words of your manuscript, I will choose someone else.

  • I will actually critique it. Here. On the blog. I will say things as nicely as I can, but I do tend to be a little blunt. If you’re not sure you can handle a public critique, then you may want to take some time to think about it before you enter.

  • Genre restrictions. I'm most experienced with YA & NA, but I will still accept MG and Adult. HOWEVER. If your first page has any erotic content on it, I ask that you don’t enter. I want to be able to post the critique and the first 250 in its entirety without making anyone uncomfortable, and if you win and you enter a page with erotic content, I will choose someone else.

  • You must have your first page ready. Should you win, you need to be able to submit your first page within 48 hours of my contacting you to let you know you won. If 48 hours pass and I haven’t heard from you, again, I will choose someone else.

  • You’ll get the most out of this if it isn’t a first draft. Obviously, I have no way of knowing if you’re handing me a first draft (though I will probably suspect because it’s usually not that difficult to tell). I won’t refuse your page if it’s a first draft, but you should know that this critique will likely be of more use if you’ve already had your betas/CPs look over it. Why? Because if you don’t, the critique I give you will probably contain a lot of notes that your betas & CPs could have/would have told you.

  • There will not be a round 2 (unless you win again in a future contest). I hate to have to say this, but if you win a critique, it’s NOT an invitation to send me a bunch of your revisions. I wish I had the time available to be able to look at revisions, but sadly, I don’t. If you try to break this rule, I will nicely say no, and also remember to choose someone else should you win a second contest. Which would make me sad. :(

So that’s it! If you’re okay with all of the above and would like to enter to be the twenty-second public critique on Writability, do the thing with the rafflecopter widget below. You have until Monday, October 24 at 11:59 EST to enter!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
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