Crypticon 2018: Post-con Post!!

What a weekend! Oh my goodness! Crypticon 2018 was my first author event EVER and wowee it was a blast! For three days, I sold my book with a few other talented authors from Blysster Press, my publishing company~

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For those who don’t know, Crypticon is my area’s local horror convention. 3 days of spooky shenanigans, including costume contests, dances, makeup demos, panels, spiffy hearses, and a vendor hall filled with creepy art, accessories, and – of course – books! Blysster is a big sponsor of the event, as they annually host a short story competition there, so it was super neat to have a place at their table this year.

For the past month, 90% of my book sales went to friends, familtheir friends/family — basically all people in my network. Meeting new people outside my network and giving them my sales pitch was more fun and natural than I expected! I surprisingly never got sick of shouting, “Regular teenage boy meets undead goth girl, meets ass-kicking demon-fighting exorcists meets the demons and black mages!” Sales went really well, especially for my first event. I’m bummed it’s over already, but I’ll definitely be back next year and will have a few events in between.

I’m so grateful for everyone in Blysster Press for being such a supportive group of writers and con family. It was a blast spending the weekend with fellow Blysster authors Timothy BlackWilliam H NelsonT.J. Tranchell, and Charity Becker (who is also my editor and publisher) — thanks for putting up with my shenanigans! Please check out their books!!! They are all such talented authors and amazingly kind people. You can get their books (and mine!) from the Blysster site. 

And of course, thanks to everyone who took interest in my book! Whether you bought a book or simply took a business card, you are all the reason why I was there!  I had so much fun meeting new readers and talking to lots of con attendees! I miss the con so much and can’t wait for mext year!! If you miss me, too, keep on following my Facebook page and wordpress, stay updated on my next events, and don’t hesitate to message me if you wanna talk Midnight Waltz or even just say hello! 

Stay spooky~

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6 Things I *Wish* I Did Before Releasing my First Book!

So as many of you probably know my first book is finally out! And you can get it here! Or here if you like eBooks and/or Prime shipping! Or wherever books are sold, really! As happy and proud as I am about it, there are so many things I *wish* I could have done or known about prior to my release. But instead of brooding about it, I’d like to share those tips with everyone!

 

1.) Build a following early on

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I mean, I kinda did this. I had this blog for a bit, but I admittedly neglected it for a while when I was finishing up college. While I am grateful for the following I do have, had I been more consistent, it could be bigger. My Twitter is also hardly touched, and I’m still figuring out Goodreads. I always thought of having a YouTube channel, but it never really happened. Plus in this day and age, most authors do the bulk of their social media promotion, regardless of how big your publishing company is. In general, the sooner you can pull together followers other than your personal friends, the bigger audience you’ll have once your book is finally released.

2.) Contact reviewers/authors for blurbs before your final draft is finished

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Not having a blurb won’t destroy you, but it can be nice to have validation from other writers in your genre on your book – plus it’s helpful to have for press releases. I didn’t know much about getting blurbs until my book was a month away from being released. Luckily I was able to get one from my editor for my press release, which was nice, but had I known about it sooner, I would have reached out to other authors. It’s important to do this early on in the process to 1.) give your reviewers time to read your book and 2.) make sure you actually get something – just because someone agrees to reading it, doesn’t mean they’ll actually get around to leaving you a blurb.

3.) Be prepared for technology to fight against you

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Maybe I just suck with tech stuff, but uploading my eBook was a nightmare. It took a good 15 tries to get it formatted correctly, stuff wasn’t showing up on the stock page. Most of this resulted in me crying to my editor for help. And most of it was because of stuff I was doing wrong, not the internet. Nevertheless, leave time for fixing funky glitches. Staying up until 2AM to get stuff fixed last minute is not fun.

4.) Print your manuscript to read over before submitting it to your printer

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I think my editor asked me like 7 times if my manuscript was good to go before she submitted it. Yeah, she looked over it several times, but of course I had the guts to change things around at 2AM last-minute. . . which resulted in plenty of icky typos and random extra words. And of course my mom kept saying, “You should print that off to read over before submitting it, it’ll look different on paper than on your screen.” And of course I denied that and got a nasty awakening when I received my proof copy in the mail. Granted, that’s the beauty of proofs, is that you still have time to get things fixed before the final print, but it definitely sets production back when you have over 20 errors to fix. Plus it was really embarrassing for me to send them all to my editor, after insisting everything looked good.

And yes. . . that is my shameful proof. . .

5.) Check out local bookstores/cafes for signings

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OK so my editor told me to do this, like. . . back in December. While I did it a little, I definitely should have done it more. Check out shops, see who carries local books, attend author readings – getting a feel early on will ease your anxiety later on once your book is out. Which leads me to my next point!

6.) Break out of your shell and be outgoing!

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I think a lot of writer folks can admit to being introverts. I personally struggle with talking to adults, especially ones I don’t know. Especially in a professional businessy setting. Even just sending out important e-mails is hard. The stress of releasing a book is already pretty intense to handle, but the anxiety of communicating with others for promotion only made it worse. While typing away on a laptop for hours is great for those who aren’t super social, it’s a lot easier to sell books when you readily throw yourself out there in the world. I’m doing it now, which is great, but it was definitely a struggle to break out of my shell and leave my room.

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Thank you for reading! I hope these tips will be helpful to any new authors reading this. If you have any tips to add, please drop them in the comments!

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5 Tips and Tricks to Finding the Motivation to Write Your Novel!

Finding the motivation to write a full-length novel can be the toughest part of the novel writing process. I’ve compiled a short and sweet list of ways to get that novel going!

1.) Outline, Outline, Outline! (aka storyboard)

So you know a big battle will take place in a castle, and you know the good guys will win. . . but what specifically happens during the fight?

With really anything you want to write (even school essays), outlining is such an overlooked, super important step that makes actually writing something a heck of a lot easier. Outlining – aka storyboarding in terms of fiction writing – for me takes the form of a bulleted list. For each chapter, I have a list of all the big events I want to occur, with little bullets outlining each important detail included. Not only does this help me organize my thoughts before returning to a scary blank page, but it also keeps me from forgetting my ideas!

2. Set easy goals

It’s probably impossible to write an entire novel in one night. Please don’t try it. But it’s sometimes also just as difficult to open a blank Word document and expect to write until you give up. Setting a goal for how much/how long you want to write at a time will not only give you a clear idea of what you need to do, but it will also feel much more rewarding at the end of your little writing session. If you’re really struggling with motivation, set the bar really low. A chapter a day might be too much. A page a day might be too much. Start small – start off with just 15 minutes a day, or maybe a paragraph a day. Whatever is easy and comfortable for you. Gradually bump up your goal.

Many people use NanoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month – to motivate them to write their first draft. The goal is 50k words in the month of November. Learn more about it here: https://nanowrimo.org/

3. Write the fun scenes first!

Exposition can be really dry to write, especially in a first draft. It often sucks to be stuck on exposition, especially when you know the next chapter will be an action-packed battle scene that you already have a vivid picture of in your head. Oftentimes in my first drafts, I’ll leave a one to two sentence note about what a scene should be and come back to it later, then go on to writing the stuff I know how it’ll play out. Like with my outlining process, it also keeps me from forgetting a fresh idea. Once you have the stuff you know down, you can go back and find ways to make those duller scenes just as fun.

4. Write about something meaningful to you

It’s simple. If you don’t care about what you’re writing, you’re not going to want to write it. Think of a topic that’s interesting to you: whether it’s something as serious as racial injustice or abuse of any kind, or a funny childhood memory, find a way to tie it into your story. It can be the overarching theme or even just a little plot point or character detail. The more personal a story is to you, the more you will enjoy creating it.

5. Find readers

Having an audience, even if it’s just one or two friends to start, is always a big help for me. Writing for just myself can go pretty slow since I already know in my head how the story goes – I don’t really feel the need to write it down. But when I have a buddy or two excited for my next chapter or short story, I can’t stand to leave them hanging! Plus it’s a great self-esteem booster to know people enjoy your work.

Joining a local writer group or an online group for sharing your work is another great way to keep the wheels moving. Especially when you have specific meeting dates, having a set deadline will automatically push you to prepare a little something. Getting feedback and pointers from people you don’t know too well can also be a big help since their opinions are unbiased.

Most importantly, accept that all first drafts are awkward and clunky.  Behind every best-seller is a mountain of marked-up, crappy drafts. Expecting your first draft to be a masterpiece is both discouraging and unrealistic. It’s okay if your story is rough and bumpy at first – juicy meat needs a skeleton to stick to!

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Thanks for reading my post! Like what you see? Click the pretty blue “follow” button and/or follow my Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mariagiakoumatosauthor/

Any tips you’d like to add? Feel free to drop a message in the comments!

 

Short Story: “Lost Time”

Hello, everyone! While my first book finishes going through the publication process, I plan on sharing some of my short stories in between my usual rants. This is one called “Lost Time” that I wrote back in college for a creative writing class. As someone who usually writes silly dark fantasy stories, I decided to step out of my bubble for this assignment and write an intentionally monotonous, repetitive, sci-fi/suspense to try creating an unsettling, paranoid tone. Alien abduction stories have always fascinated me, and I’d love to possibly take a shot at writing another in the future! I hope you enjoy my first attempt at one!

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3:33 AM

The time my husband Charlie died from a heart attack. The time I awaken every Wednesday for the past three months since. The time my daughter Eva waddles into my bedroom, muttering about the same nightmare. I roll over on my side in my spacious bed, the blankets tugging at my torso. Sure enough, Eva’s looming over me, dragging her stuffed bunny along the wood floor.

“I had a bad dream,” she mumbles, squeezing the bunny’s hand.

“The one about the owl?” I ask. It’s always the one about the owl.

She nods, her messy blonde hair flopping about her tiny pale face.

I sigh as I crawl out of bed and steer her back to her own. I tuck her in for the second time that night, reassuring her for the second time this month that the owl is not real. I’m not sure if she believes me, but I know she will not awaken until breakfast time. She never awakens after 3:33AM on Wednesdays.

“It’s perfectly normal for a small child to suffer from nightmares,” her therapist would tell me every week. “Children have wild imaginations.” She has never seen an owl in real life, not outside of her picture books. Charlie’s death has affected her in a strange way.

Tired, I trudge back to my bedroom. I massage my aching shoulder as I sit on my bed. I must have pulled it in my sleep. I pull down my shirt and notice a purple bruise, perfectly circular, in the middle of my right shoulder blade. Last week it was my leg, my neck the week before. Neither me nor Eva have been able to sleep well on Wednesdays since Charlie’s death.

Eva sits at the breakfast next morning, munching on Cheerios and strawberries. I stand at the kitchen counter, packing her lunch for school. I can tell from her droopy eyes that she’s tired. We’re always tired on Thursday mornings now.

“Eva, honey,” I say, “remember what Dr. Richardson told you last week? He told you to stop waking me up when you have the owl dream. He told you it isn’t real, remember?”

“I thought you were awake,” Eva says through a mouthful of cereal.

“Sweetie, mommy goes to bed at eleven. You know that.”

“But the light was on in your room,” she says with conviction. “You were talking to someone.”

“No, honey, it wasn’t,” I assure her. “When you walked into my room, Mommy was sleeping and the lights were off. You must have still been dreaming.”

Our conversation ends there. I help her into the car and drive her to school. I stand outside the van and wave goodbye to her as she runs across the schoolyard with her best friend Jessie. Jessie’s mom Linda walks over to me from her car, wearing an awkward smile on her face wrinkled with sympathy. I’ve been getting that look too often since Charlie’s death.

“Karen?” she says, as if she is unsure it’s me. “How’ve you been?”

I shrug and force a smile on my face. “The same since Charlie died.”

“Did they ever find out what caused the heart attack?”

I shake my head. “He was perfectly healthy. It just happened, out of the blue.”

“Wow, I’m so sorry.” I wince from the pain as she squeezes my bruised shoulder. “Hey, I’m sorry if I upset you last week. I understand that this is a sensitive time for you.”

I raise my brow. “What do you mean?”

“I invited you to go out for lunch last Thursday. You never showed up.”

“Right.” I fail to remember making plans. I can’t even remember what I did last Thursday afternoon. I recall buying groceries at eleven and taking Eva to the therapist after school, but it’s as if time did not exist between the two events. Out of the corner of my eye, I notice two men in black suits watching me from across the schoolyard. I can’t see their eyes behind their sunglasses, but I know they are watching me. I hurry back in my car without saying goodbye to Linda. I don’t feel comfortable around those men. I have to get away from them.

But as I walk Eva into her therapist’s building later that afternoon, I swear I see those same two men watching me from a distance.

I read magazines as I wait for Eva’s appointment to finish. Fashion magazines of smiling women. No one smiles that big. No one covered in bruises with a dead husband and traumatized child. I set the magazines down when Dr. Richardson enters the lobby. Eva rushes to my side, but he beckons me to his office. Eva waits in one of the large brown chairs, dipping her fingers in the mini waterfall on the glass table beside her.

Dr. Richardson hands me a business card before I can even take a seat in his office. He stares at me through his round glasses with concerned eyes. “Call this man. He is a colleague of mine.”

I glance at the card. “Thanks, but I don’t need therapy. I can cope on my own.”

His eyes narrow. “With all due respect, I believe you are scaring your daughter. She tells me she hears you screaming every week, throwing things in your room–”

I laugh and shake my head. “Doctor, you’ve heard all about her crazy nightmares –”

But then he interrupts me. “She told me this week that they aren’t nightmares.”

I cock my head in disbelief. “We live in the city. How can she see an owl?”

“She says it’s not an owl.”

As I march out of his office, seize Eva’s tiny wrist, and drag her to the car, I see the men in black suits across the parking lot watching me. One is speaking on a two-way radio. I speed home, escaping Dr. Richardson’s office, but I still hear his words ringing in my ears.

Next Wednesday, I lie awake in bed at 2:00AM with the lights on. As tired as I am, I will not sleep. I must prove to Linda that I’m not some crazy, depressed widow, to Dr. Richardson that my daughter is having nightmares, that she will come in my room at 3:33AM. I watch the TV across my bed. A woman and a man are arguing on screen as they sit in a restaurant–

3:33AM.

I don’t remember falling asleep, but I spring from my bed. My knee gives in and a fall to the wood floor. The lights are off, the room only lit by the blank blue screen of the TV. My left leg seers in agony as I reach for the lamp on my nightstand and turn it on. Nothing in my room has moved, but the picture frame on my nightstand has shattered, a crack between mine and Charlie’s faces. I scream when my eyes fall upon my leg, my voice already horse as if I had already been screaming. My skin has been completely ripped – no, scorched – from my leg, blood and puss dripping down my ankle. My arms are covered in bruises.

Eva is not in my room.

I brave the pain and crawl down the hall to her room. The hallway never felt so long, so exhausting. I see the light on in her room, but when I finally make it, she is not there. I scream her name, but no response. I drag myself to her open window and peer outside, hoping that, by some miracle, I will see her standing in the yard.

But all I see are the two men in black suits, watching me through their sunglasses.

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Thank you for reading! 🙂 Stay tuned for more stories!

Inspiring Art with Art: Kick your Creative Block!

Whether you’re a photographer, writer, painter, musician – all of us artsy types hit some sort of “block” where we struggle to access our creativity. As someone who is primarily a writer, the dreaded writer’s block can last weeks, even months for me.

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When I’m stuck in a rut, I often find inspiration from my other artistic hobbies. Because I’m a writer, this post focuses on overcoming writer’s block, but finding inspiration from other art forms can work for any creative process!

Music

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Playing piano is definitely one of my favorite hobbies! Those who have read my book Midnight Waltz could probably assume that about me, given the references to famous pieces and the main female character’s love for Chopin. Not only is playing piano a great stress reliever for me, it also helps me connect with emotions that I struggle to readily convey in words. Oftentimes when I’m working on an emotional chapter, I’ll play a song that I feel captures the mood I’m aiming for.

 

Drawing

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I am a horrible sketch artist. Horrible. Thus, most of my drawings are for my own eyes to spare the suffering of others. But I do enjoy sketching portraits of my characters, especially when I come up with new ones. Having a tangible visual helps me pick out their most defining features and betters my descriptions. Plus, when I am confident enough to show my friends and test readers, it’s interesting to see if my drawings matched up with the images they conjured from my in-book descriptions.

And yes. . . that is my horrible art.

 

Photography

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“A picture is worth a thousand words,” right? I don’t have much experience in photography, but it is an art form I hope to pursue. Similar to drawing, taking a photo of a setting/landscape or a person can help find the words for descriptions. Plus, getting some fresh air and taking a walk around wherever you want to take photos can help clear your mind. Even if you aren’t a skilled photographer, sometimes snapping a quick photo on your phone of a place that looks like somewhere you’d like to set a story can be a little helpful.

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Thank you for reading my post! I hope it was of some help to my fellow artists! Do you have some of your own artistic ways of overcoming your blocks? Feel free to drop a thought in the comments! 🙂

Why Writing YA Fiction is Pretty Neat

When my editor decided to take on my first book, one of the first things we discussed was what my target demographic is.

For the longest time, I was one of those “I write for me” writers, but – especially as a new author – marketing myself to a specific group would be more effective. Given that my main characters range from 15-25 years old, and the story’s high energy, paranormal action atmosphere, my editor and I came to agree on shaping it to be a Young Adult novel. I’ll admit, I was irrationally butthurt at first about having to filter out most swear words, feeling limited by my restrictions – though to be fair, it’s not like I had any extreme violence or raunchy sex scenes in there to begin with. But as we continued on with the editing process, not only did the YA label feel more fitting, it created an overarching theme that, in the end, made me really excited to share with my future young readers.

As a recent college graduate beginning her new career as a therapist, I feel about as young adult as people get. I’m not so far detached from my youth that I need to ask on writer forums, “What do the young hip kidsters say and do these days?” If anything, I can craft a believable teen far more easily than a believable 50 year old. My emotional, confusing, and admittedly angsty teenage years are still close enough behind me to  be freshly memorable, but my few years of “adulting” through college and the “real world,” offer me much advice to go back to give to young Maria. While I can’t do just that, I’m sure there are plenty of other teens out there currently arguing with their mothers about why they should go to that late-night warehouse party with that older boy who totally won’t manipulate her.

It’s funny seeing my novel evolve over the years. I created the characters and original plot when I was 13, younger than all my characters. There was something really exciting about pairing 17 year olds, writing about their love lives and whatnot. Despite the small age gap, I perceived them as much older than me, almost romanticizing what I believed the future could hold for me. As I got older, it hit me hard: being an older teenager sucks. It’s not just about getting that popular girl’s attention, or wearing the coolest clothes in school. Even now, I don’t think I could have effectively prepared Young Maria for the heartbreak, loneliness, misunderstandings, and struggles of finding her place in the world. I remember how petty it all seemed to my parents. My mom would always say stuff like, “It’ll be okay, someday this won’t matter, you’re young, I know what’s best.” And yeah, maybe some of it was true – heck, I can hardly remember the name of the first boy that made me cry in high school – but it was the last thing my brain was able to process. It wasn’t what I needed to hear.

I needed someone to listen to my feelings. I needed someone to acknowledge that, yeah, things suck right now. They probably will suck for a while. Life isn’t always going to be a happy fairy tale, and that’s okay. Everyone feels sad, upset, and angry at times, and that’s a totally normal thing to express.

But I think what was even harder than getting through my crazy high school years was accepting adulthood. Moving away from the protection of my home to the big city for college was brutal. I’m suddenly making big life decisions for myself with very little time to think. No adults are around to help or do things for me – I am the adult. Worst of all, that older boy my mom warned me not to be around? Yeah, I learned the hard way she was right about him. For the first few months after moving out, life really sucked. But it was okay. While all this sounds so gloomy, the most important lesson I learned was keeping my chin up and finding hope despite it all. I had an amazing group of friends to help me through the ugly parts, and once that was over, so many awesome memories were made. No matter how awful things would get, my friends always helped me stay optimistic and filled me with hope.

While I’m no expert on the teen brain, I’d like to think I can at least share what I think I personally needed at the time in my book, and I hope it will be at least somewhat meaningful for my readers. Coming-of-age, accepting the hard times that comes along with it, and optimism are all important aspects from my life that I believe are important to share with my readers. My wacky urban dark fantasy shenanigans aside, I don’t think I’d be able to portray my hopeful messages the same way if I wasn’t a YA writer.

Do you write YA fiction? What are your favorite things about writing YA fiction? Feel free to drop a comment! Thanks for reading! 🙂

Student Writer: Balancing writing with school, work, and a bunch of other stuff

Hello, hello! It’s been a while since I’ve posted a rant, since I’ve been incredibly busy with school, work, and editing my first book for publication! That being said, today’s rant fittingly is about how I manage to fit in time for writing/editing while balancing work and school.

For those who don’t know me, I’m currently a senior in college, and am working toward a psychology and sociology double major, with a minor in law/societies/justice. After class, I either head to work or to my internship, often followed by my volunteer position at a homeless shelter. On top of that, I’m often making cosplays for upcoming conventions, editing my first book for publication, and writing the first draft of the second book. So how to I manage to balance all this??

This quarter, a typical school/work day for me starts at 10AM and ends around 6PM – and if it’s a at the shelter, 10PM. As a student paying thousands of dollars for my education, I put my homework first. Luckily, my editor is super understanding and patient. In an ideal world, I would write or edit at least one chapter per night. With school, this isn’t really easy for me. There have been weeks where I don’t get to even open one of my manuscripts until Friday night. It sucks, but midterms and essay deadlines are far less forgiving than my editor. Luckily for me, essays are a piece of cake  – if I know what I’m writing about, I can whip out a standard 5-paragraph, 2-3 page paper in about an hour. I realize this isn’t so simple for everyone, so I’m really thankful for my speedy writing skills (I’d like to thank all my SAT essay prep for that). I do all my reading and studying on my bus rides to/from work. My classes are less intensive this quarter since I’m focusing a lot on my job and internship, so I’m usually free by around 7pm to work on homework, writing, or any other projects.

However, my spring conventions are coming up, and naturally I planned more cosplays than I can handle. Much of my free time goes toward sewing, painting, crafting, etc. I do try to get a head start on most of my costumes, so I usually try to do writing every other night, and cosplay making on the nights I’m not writing. Or sometimes I’ll do a few hours of cosplay, then a few hours of writing, depending on what needs to be done. When my editor has new edits for me to look at or needs a new chapter, that takes priority over anything else. If I know I’ll be busy in the future, like if a con is coming up that weekend, I generally try to get ahead on edits and homework.

Surprisingly, I have something of a social life. Granted it’s all in the evening, but I try to set aside at least one night to go out with friends, and I hang out with my boyfriend as often as we can make time for each other between our busy schedules. Sometimes when I have a lot of studying to do, I meet up with friends to keep each other company while we work on our own stuff.

Sounds like I have everything laid out pretty neatly, huh? Well. . . there’s a few sacrifices.

I get about 4-5 hours of sleep on a good night. My classes aren’t too difficult this quarter, so I don’t need to spend hours each day on studying. Meals are often rushed during bus rides, at odd hours, or I’m stuffing my face while I work on other stuff. Unless I am eating with friends or family, I never really spend time just enjoying my food. Even with free time, I’m often not in my “writing zone” until around midnight, and I’ll often stay up until 2 or 3AM writing. Because writing – and cosplay, since it’s con season – takes up so much of my free time, I rarely have time to watch TV shows, play video games, or really do any of my other hobbies during the week days. Every where I go, I’m almost always brainstorming ideas for chapters and story lines, so I know what I want to write whenever I get the chance. I don’t think it’s necessary to dedicate so much mental energy and free time to get writing time in, but it’s what works for me with my schedule.

Whatever your schedule is, I think the main takeaway point here is managing your time wisely. Know how many hours you need to spend on work, homework, studying – the mandatory stuff. Dedicate how ever much of your free time you fee comfortable with to writing. Cut out mindless browsing on Facebook. Make a schedule. Do whatever you gotta do to find time to write.

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How does my daily schedule compare to yours? Do you have any suggestions for balancing writing with a busy routine? Comment your thoughts below!

Thanks for reading! 🙂