Jill Williamson’s Blog

Two Tips to Stay Healthy While Writing for Hours

Posted by on Feb 28th, 2012 in Adventures in Life, Jill Williamson's Blog | 22 comments

I’ve been writing since 2004–full time since 2009. And I’m already starting to have problems with my arms.  :cry:

I’ve read a few blog posts about how unhealthy it is to sit all day, one of which was Michael Hyatt’s Why Sitting is Killing You

Talk about depressing!

So I’m trying to take some proactive steps to keep my body moving throughout the day. Here are two things I’ve done to try and keep healthy.

1. I downloaded a program called WorkRave. It’s a program for people who sit at the computer for long hours. It reminds you to move. It gives alerts to take a break and even has exercises for your eyes, neck, and arms. This program runs on GNU/Linux and Microsoft Windows. Click here to learn more about it. It’s a LOT annoying at first, but give it a chance. You can alter the settings so that it reminds you at the times you want to be reminded. And the stretches feel really nice. Now that I’m used to it, I really appreciate having its help.

Workrave logo

2. I built a treadmill desk! This was pretty fun. And granted, if you don’t have a treadmill, this isn’t going to be very helpful. But here is how I did it.

I measured the length from one hand rest to the other at the widest point. It was 34 1/2″ across. 

 

I went down to the hardware store. Since my hand rests are flat on the top, I bought some sticky-back velcro to keep the surface from bouncing around while I walked on the treadmill and to hold my laptop in place. I also bought a shelf board to lay across the top. See the yellow circles in the picture below to see exactly what I bought.

Materials for building a treadmill desk.

***NOTE: I had a roll of white 3/4″ sticky-back velcro at home already. So I didn’t need to buy more. So you will need to purchase a package of 3/4″ wide sticky-back velcro as well. You only need about five inches of this.

When I got home, I laid the board across the two hand rests. Then I got down underneath the hand rests and used a pencil to trace the shape where the board lay on each hand rest. 

I put two lengths of the scratchy side of the 3.5″ X 1.5″ velcro on each end of the board inside my pencil tracings, starting at the end of the board. 

Then I put two lengths of the soft side of the 3.5″ X 1.5″ velcro on each hand rest, starting at the very end. This way, if I wanted to run and needed to use the hand rest, it wouldn’t be prickly.

I set the shelf board on the hand rests, lining up the velcro, then tipped it down until the velcro stuck. 

I didn’t push very hard because I didn’t want the sticky part of the velcro to come loose. The velcro is strong enough that it will stick if you just set the board on top.

Next, I cut a five inch strip of the 3/4″ sticky-back velcro. I put the soft side on the bottom of my laptop in a place that didn’t cover any vents. I put the prickly side of the velcro in the upper center of the board.

I set the laptop on the board so that it stuck to the velcro. Again, the velcro was strong enough that I didn’t need to push very hard to make the laptop stick.

And that’s it! I can put the speed really low and walk for hours. The only thing that bothers me is how low the screen is. But I figure the change in neck position from looking down at the treadmill desk and looking straight at my desktop monitor is probably a good thing.

Treadmill desk

 

What do you think? Do you have a treadmill desk? If you work on the computer a lot, what have you tried to help your posture and overall health? Leave a comment and let me know.

So You Want To Be a Writer: 6 Things You Must Know

Posted by on Feb 25th, 2012 in Jill Williamson's Blog | 0 comments

You love making up stories and the idea of having your own book someday thrills you. So you want to be a writer. What next?

 

6. Write

It’s that simple—or difficult. Just write, write, write. Then go back and rewrite. But keep writing, every day if you can. You’ll get really good at it because you’ll be practicing all the time. Make yourself finish each book you start. Because if you can’t finish a book, you can’t write one. This is a very important rite of passage for authors. Complete one book, then write another, then another, and so on.

 

5. Learn

Read some books on writing. Click here for some of my recommendations.

Start following some blogs on writing. Click here for some of my recommendations.

Join some groups of writers. Click here for some of my recommendations. And be willing to take the advice of others.

 

4. Flexibility

You’ve written your book, submitted it to dozens of editors and agents, and no one wants it. Rats! But don’t lose heart. And don’t give up. Put aside that book and start polishing the next one. Too many writers hold on to that favorite idea for so long that they end up wasting time that could be spent writing something new. Learn to be flexible. Because in most cases, an author’s first book is often not his first published book.

Also, when you write a whole book, characters and plots sometimes take over and your plans for the story don’t fit. You might have to let go of your plans. Often the story and characters know better than you. That may sound strange, but when your story comes alive, that’s a good thing. Trust it. 

 

3. Humility

HumilityBeing a writer means being criticized. A lot. It’s part of the job description. Get used to it early on. And realize that you can learn something from every criticism. But don’t react to them. Don’t defend yourself. It’s bad form. Accept all feedback with humility and grace. Then think it over, use what you can, and ignore the rest. Because there will be plenty to ignore. 

And give to other writers without looking to get back. Purchase your favorite author’s books and your friends books new. Support your author friends and your industry. Don’t trash talk it. Word gets around. Your reputation is at stake.

 

2. Persistence

 

persistent rock climberYou’re going to have to be persistent. You’re going to have to pick one idea and stick with it until you finish a book. Then you can go back to all 237 of your other ideas and write a different one. But I’ve met too many authors who’ve never finished a book because they’ve been “perfecting” chapter one for three years. Accept that your first draft might be a mess. That’s okay. Just finish the book. Then you can go back and have something to fix. Because, really, by the time you finish the story, you might find out that chapter one is no longer relevant to the story because of how the book ended.

But part of persistence is also knowing when to put that book down, submit it to editors and agents, and start writing another book. Treat rejections as another step toward publication. Finish that second book and submit that one too. Just keep on swimming. You can do it! You may fall a few time. You may make mistakes. So dust yourself off and try again. It’s all part of the learning process.

 

1. Patience

No one likes the word “patience,” especially in this “get it now” world we live in. But there is a reason for sayings like: “Good things come to those who wait.” Because it’s true. Sure, anyone can pay money to have his book printed today. Frankly, he can do it for free if he has the right graphic and computer skills. But should he? Likely not. At least not until he’s put in the time to learn his craft.

Pace yourself like a marathon runner. If you go too fast in the beginning, you could ruin your whole run. Not that you can’t start over. You always can. But being in a hurry is not to your advantage. 

It will be hard. You’ll see others getting published before you, and you’ll long to have a book out too. But if you want to be a serious writer, and you like the idea that this could be your career, then take it seriously and prepare for years of training. Don’t be in a hurry and publish a book that will be a mess. Your career is on the line! Make sure that your first book is your best one! Nothing comes easy. And if it does, there is probably a catch. If you work hard and respect your dream, and make up your mind that you will not rush this, you will be on the right track from the start. And when you do get that first book published, it will be the real deal.

 

Leftover Candy Canes Make Peppermint Cocoa

Posted by on Feb 23rd, 2012 in Adventures in Life, Jill Williamson's Blog | 2 comments

Every year after Christmas I always have a huge pile of candy canes. And no one in my house is a big fan of eating plain peppermint candy. So they always sit there until I throw them out.

Never again!

I put one into my hot chocolate the other day, and… mmm. It slowly melts and tastes delicious! Give it a try.

Candy Cane Cocoa

Q&A: How Many Typed Pages = Book Pages?

Posted by on Feb 22nd, 2012 in Jill Williamson's Blog | 9 comments

Roselynne asks, “I’m writing a book on the computer and I wanted to know how many book pages there are per computer page.”

Roselynne,

If you format your manuscript with 1″ margins all around and use 12-point font, double spaced, it’s generally about the same as a novel. So a 300 page manuscript will be roughly a 300-page book.  

According to SCWBI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators), early readers should be about 20 pages (5,000 words) and chapter books should be from 40-60 pages (10-15,000 words). And most middle grade novels are in the 20,000 to 40,000 range.  The Magic Treehouse books are about 5,000 to 12,000 words, depending on which one you pick up. 

Also, around 80,000 words is about a 300-page novel. That’s a good target length if you are writing YA novels or adult novels. Replication: The Jason Experiment is 85, 214 words long and the final book is 294 pages.

 
 
 

An Audio Interview with Bill Myers

Posted by on Feb 21st, 2012 in Adventures in Life, Jill Williamson's Blog, Podcasts | 1 comment

Bill Myers and Jill WilliamsonOne of the first Christian fiction books I ever read was Bill Myer’s Blood of Heaven. I loved it!

Over the years I’ve read many more of Bill’s books and got my son totally hooked on his Wally McDoogle series for young readers. No matter how old you are, if you’ve never read a Wally McDoogle book, you’ve got to. They are so very funny!

When I first heard Bill Myers speak at the Oregon Christian Writers Summer Coaching Conference in 2010, I was spellbound. Bill is a great storyteller. I could listen to him all day long. So I thought you’d all like to hear him speak in his own voice. I’ve done a few podcast interviews before as the author being interviewed, but this was the first time I tried interviewing someone else. It was a little tricky, but I figured it out. 

FYI, in this interview, Bill talks about a film company that he’s working with to get some of his books made into movies. The name of this company is Amaris Media International, and if you click here, you can check out their site and keep up with what they’re working on.

So here is my interview with Bill Myers where he talks about how he became a writer, director, and producer, and about his latest ebook Supernatural Love, which is available on Kindle now. 

Bill Myers Supernatural Love

Click here to download the MP3 of my interview with Bill.

Or click on the gray Audio MP3 Play Button under the social media icons to listen now. 

 

Life is Short… 5 Ways to Make a Difference Today

Posted by on Feb 16th, 2012 in Adventures in Life, Jill Williamson's Blog | 0 comments

Act of KindnessA few weeks ago I wrote about how I inadvertently allow my To Do list spoil my opportunity to bless others and be blessed in return. Since then, when I’ve gone out, I’ve been making an effort to set aside my To Do list and to look for opportunities to interact with others.

William James said, “The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated.”  Some simple ways I’ve tried to show appreciation to others are: 

1. Smile. This is the fastest way to show others you like them.

2. Give a compliment. Saying something nice is an easy way to make someone’s day.

3. Ask a question. And don’t stop at “How are you?” Questions are a simple way to start a conversation. And people feel good when you’re interested in their life.

4. Listen. Everyone likes to be heard, and listening lets a person know you care.

5. Offer to help. If you see someone struggling, jump in and lend a hand! Get the door for a stranger. Give up your seat on the bus. Slow down and let a pedestrian pass–even if they’re jaywalking! The other day, our car died three blocks from the mechanic’s shop. Some guy helped my husband push the car the rest of the way. I didn’t even catch his name, but he was a hero to us.

Check out the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation for more ideas. Granted, some of these are premeditated, but planned kindness makes a difference too.

What about you? Leave a comment and tell us other ways we can make a difference in someone’s day.

 

Valentine’s Treats

Posted by on Feb 15th, 2012 in Adventures in Life, Jill Williamson's Blog | 0 comments

Yesterday my husband made these little English muffin pizzas for our daughter’s Valentine’s party. Just an English muffin, some pizza sauce, some cheese, and two pepperoni, one cut in half, and rearranged to make a heart. Pretty cute, huh?

Valentine heart English muffin pizza

English muffin pizza heart

 

Another mom brought in these cute cheese and hotdog hearts. (Click on the picture to see how to make them. They’re from Family Fun Magazine.)

cheese and hotdog heartsAnd we had a lovely wedge salad with a tomato rose with our Valentine’s Fundraiser dinner. (Click on the picture to watch how to make one on YouTube.)

how to make a tomato rose

How about you? See any clever Valentine’s treats yesterday? Tell me about it.

Michael Hauge’s Story Concept Template

Posted by on Feb 15th, 2012 in Jill Williamson's Blog | 1 comment

I recently discovered Michael Hauge’s story template. Michael is an author, screenwriter, and script consultant who has worked on projects for Will Smith, Julia Roberts, Jennifer Lopez, Kirsten Dunst, Charlize Theron, and Morgan Freeman.

I thought some of you might find this tool helpful. Be sure to check out Michael’s website at: http://www.storymastery.com/.


TITLE is a GENRE about HERO, a ROLE, who EMPATHY/SET UP. When HERO is OPPORTUNITY, s/he decides to NEW SITUATION/PRELIMINARY GOAL. But when CHANGE OF PLANS, s/he now must OUTER MOTIVATION/PRIMARY GOAL by HERO’s PLAN as well as SECOND GOAL in spite of the fact that OUTER CONFLICT.

 

My example:

By Darkness Hid is an medieval fantasy story, about Achan, a stray boy, who is about to become a man, who lives under the ale casks in the cellar of the kitchens of Sitna Manor because he is owned by Lord Nathak and was raised by Poril, the cook.

When Achan is offered the opportunity to train to be a squire, even though it’s against the law for strays, he decides to train anyway, in hopes of becoming worthy of Gren, the peasant girl he loves. But when Lord Nathak discovers Achan’s training and forces Achan to squire for Prince Gidon, and the prince tries to take Gren for himself, Achan now must help Gren marry another and keep her life safe by pledging to serve the evil prince for life, as well as give up his dreams of freedom, in spite of the fact that he is now hearing voices in his head.

 

Now you try it:

______________ is a ________________ about __________, a ________________, who ________________________. When ____________ is ___________________, s/he decides to ____________________. But when  _______________________, s/he now must ________________________________ by ______________    as well as ____________________ in spite of the fact that _______________________.

 

How did it work? Is this something you might find useful in the future? Leave a comment and let me know what you think.

 

I was Just Thinking… Do You Like Yourself?

Posted by on Feb 14th, 2012 in Adventures in Faith, Jill Williamson's Blog | 3 comments

This Valentine’s Day, I was thinking about love.

When asked, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” Jesus replied, “The most important one is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12: 28-31)

I think that’s pretty cool.

But I was just thinking, what if you don’t love yourself? What if you don’t even like yourself? What if you judge yourself harshly, think you’re too thin or too fat, think you talk too little or too much, think you do everything wrong? And if you think of yourself in such a critical way, how might that reflect on how you think of your neighbor? 

Perhaps, to truly love your neighbor, you need to first learn to love yourself as Christ loves you.

So just how much does Christ love you, anyway?

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

I wonder if it’s possible for me to love anyone so much that I would sacrifice my son. I don’t think so. 

Wow. 

Anyway… that’s what I was thinking.

What do you think? Have you ever had trouble loving yourself? Leave a comment and let me know.

 

7 Ways to Add Mystery to Your Plot

Posted by on Feb 11th, 2012 in Jill Williamson's Blog | 12 comments

Shadowwriter: My problem is that toward the middle of the book, it gets dry and I need something to happen. I’m not sure what.

The strength of a plot depends on how the writer reveals information to the reader. If you have nothing going on in the middle of your book, try some of these mystery tips to see if you can add some intrigue. And if you don’t have enough characters for intrigue, maybe you need to add some minor characters.

1. Know the ending

When writing a strong plot, it’s important to have some idea of how you want the story to end. This usually results in your main character achieving his goal. In a mystery novel, that means figuring out who done it. If your mystery is a subplot, you still need to reveal the answer to that mystery. Once you know your ending, it will be easier for you to plant clues and red herrings for the reader along the way.

2. Avoid luck

Nothing is more frustrating to a reader than a story in which the main character succeeds by a string of good luck. Do not allow luck or other heroic characters to sweep in and steal the spotlight from your main character. Your hero needs to solve the mystery!

3. Backstory

Know the backstory of all your main and minor characters. Do not put all that you know into the book! You need to know it to understand each character’s motivation for doing what they do in the story. Murder requires motive. So does every other action. Once you know each character well, it will be easier to plant clues and red herrings for the reader. 

4. Introduce the culprit early on

Make sure the reader gets to see that bad guy/traitor/guilty party early on in the book. It’s frustrating to be reading a story and think you know who may have done it only to discover it was a character who just entered the story in chapter 28! Give the reader a glimpse early on. JK Rowling does a great job with this. If you’ve read or seen the first Harry Potter, remember that we first saw Professor Quirrell at the Leaky Cauldron when Harry was first headed to school.

Keep in mind, the culprit shouldn’t always be the least likely person. Mix it up. Keep your reader guessing.

5. Clues

A clue is: anything that serves to guide or direct in the solution of a problem or mystery.

Plant clues as the story moves along. Things that may seem significant or completely ordinary. Harry Potter’s meeting a new teacher seemed like no big deal at the time.

Clues can be observations. Perhaps your character notices a tattoo on a friend. He doesn’t think much of it until later in the book when he sees a villain with the same tattoo. Then there is a connection that raises suspicion of the friend. 

Clues can be relationships: relatives who hate each other, a boyfriends who was cheated on, a couple in love, a mentor…

Clues can be evidence like fingerprints, hair color, footprints, license plate numbers, etc.

Clues can be dialogue. Keri told me she loved snowboarding. Then why did she tell me she hated it?

Depending on the type of writer you are, you might plan these clues before you write the book or write the whole book then go back in and plant clues. Both ways work.

Use clues sparingly. You don’t need them for every character in every scene. You just need a few here and there.

6. Red herrings

A red herring is something intended to divert attention from the real problem or matter at hand; a misleading clue.

Plant red herrings as the story moves along. Things that may seem significant or completely ordinary. Professor Snape’s apparent hatred of Harry seemed like a very big motive for villainy, even though it wasn’t.

Red herrings can be observations, relationships, evidence, and dialogue too. Reveal them in the same manner as you do clues. You goal is to throw your reader off track.

Depending on the type of writer you are, you might plan out these red herrings before you write the book or write the whole book then go back in and plant red herrings. Both ways work.  ;-)

Use red herrings sparingly too. 

7. Wait as long as possible for the big reveal

If the mystery subplot is integral to the overall plot of your story, don’t reveal your culprit in the middle of the book. Wait until the last possible moment for your main character to figure it all out.

The idea is to create a trail of puzzle pieces for your character to find and put together until it’s time to be revealed. So if your story is stuck, I suggest you plant some more puzzle pieces.