Identity Crisis – the schizophrenic world of writing under two names

Over at Kaz this week we’ve been celebrating the new website and I’ve also been throwing myself on the mercy of my readers and begging forgiveness for not being a more diligent blogger. In fact on tomorrow over there, I’ll discuss why we don’t blog. The more I thought about it, the more fascinating it became. I hope you enjoy. 

However, here, I’m tackling a little problem that seems to plague me every now and then – and that’s my two separate identities. I suppose the first question to answer is why I have them? It’s not a difficult or complicated answer.  

Basically,  it’s simply that I write for two different age-groups. For many years I’ve written primary focused works – over 50 of them in fact –and I’m very grateful for the  following of beautiful young people who enjoy those works.

Then there’s the older YA stuff that incorporates topics and cultural references that are beyond those younger people, and I always felt I needed to keep those two audiences separate to some degree – and for the obvious reasons. These I write as Kaz Delaney.

So, history lesson over –  now to the dilemma: juggling  two identities and maintaining two blogs and two websites  – which means double the stress for ideas, double the comps, double the prizes.

There’s also the problem of crossover readers – those who will eventually grow up and read up. How does one take the junior readers over to the Kaz side – aka the dark side?  Mmwwhahahah…

Nah, it’s not the dark side. Just older. And I guess the most obvious is the references to each blog on the other.

But that’s only part of the problem. Like, who am I at writer or professional functions? Sometimes I need to be both! I’ve been Kaz for many years – and am comfortable with that other persona, but she was far better known in the U.S. than here in Oz. But now Kaz is making a bigger splash in Australia, that means more of a physical presence – and for the first time I’m discovering conflicts that I, naively, hadn’t expected to encounter.

So, help! Do you have two identities? (Those under the Witness Protection Program need not reply. Also exempt are those whose other names include, ‘Chopper’, ‘Slicer’ or any other form of kitchen or mutilating appliance. These are  not the dual identites to which I refer…)

But everyone else? Anyone else? How do you find the experience? Problems? Upsides?  Do you have any hints to share? Any advice?

I can’t wait to hear! And don’t forget the prize draw! I’m having so much fun with this!

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New Website! Prizes! Prizes! Prizes!

This blog is going to appear on both sites this time – something I try not to do, but it’s for a good reason: It’s celebration time! What are we celebrating? Well for starters, it’s the month of my birthday. But way more important than that – we’re celebrating the revamp of my new Kaz Delaney Website. The amazing Ms Paula Roe (seen below in the middle between the gorgeous Shannon Stein (foreground) and myself ) has once more sprinkled her magic and my brand new *sparkling* website is up and running. And in perfect time – but more of that later…

Anyway, to celebrate and to thank you for being so patient with me, I’m offering some great prizes.

 How do you get said prizes, and what are they? Good questions.

 How? Easy. Any person who leaves a comment on any blog of mine during the month of October will go in the draw! If you leave comments on more than one blog that month, you get more chances! Cool? There’ll be two lots of prizes – so blogs on this site as well as the Kaz site will put you in the running. There’s one set of prizes for each site. Twice as many chances. I have to say, for me, this is one of the most exciting parts of being a writer; getting to source great gifts and give them away to my friends! Too much fun!

2. What? It’s a Kaz party so we have to do it in Kaz Style. So, the giveaway is the cutest little woven shoulder purse – and it’s jam packed with the essentials. Lip gloss, a sparkly mirror to make sure you’re looking fab, some mints so that you’re hot-guy ready, the cutest little mini eye makeup set, some nail polish in the hottest new summer colour, and a mini hand cream to keep your hands silky smooth and soft.

And, if you’re girl after Kaz’s heart – you’ve got to rock the right perfume? Yes? And I found the most gorgeous writer perfumes ever. Okay, so it won’t fit into your bag, but you can squirt before you leave and it’ll last because it’s designer Italian perfume. Check it out! It’s shaped like a pencil! How cool is that! They’re part of the WORDS, inspirational themed perfumes by Dese Venezia and the one’s I’ve chosen for you are entitled: Thought.

What’s more the whole bundle is worth more than a hundred bucks – each one – and I want to express my sincere gratitude to those who donated some of these amazing gifts to help me celebrate. What a lovely surprise – and I’m so delighted I can share!

And if it’s not your style, I hope there’s someone in your life who would love it. So go ahead! Make my day! Comment! LOL!

Oh – and on Wednesday, you might be able to help me out with my identity crisis. Look forward to chatting with you.

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Revisions and lessons learned

If you’ve been following my Kaz Delaney blog – The Ditzy Diva – and I sooo hope you are  (sob…) you’ll see that I’ve had a bit of a rough time this past school term. And as I did there (at Kaz)- I apologise sincerely. I promised myself that no matter what happened, I wouldn’t blog and run – and that’s exactly what I did.  Which just goes to show I suck at promises and you should never trust me again. Ever…

But just like the time the dog ate my homework – honestly, would I lie to you? – I have plausible excuses. Both are over at Kaz though, because otherwise it gets a little bit repetitive

Anyway, after you’ve read that blog (hint, hint), you’ll know that the revisions for my YA novel Dead, Actually (Allen & Unwin, March 2012, Kaz Delaney), were accepted yesterday and we can now head into production.

As with the completion of any project though, I analysed what I’d learned from this process. As I’ve said in the other blogs, this project really challenged me for many reasons, and which is ironic because the mantra I adopted some time last year is: Obstacles are only put in front of us to test how badly we want something.

So, what did I learn?

1) Overall I learned that I am probably more resilient than I give myself credit for.  I also think we all have inner reserves we can draw on  – they’re there for us to use. We just have to suck it up and dig deeper.  Note to self…

2) I had reinforced again that it’s vital not to lose focus – literally. There were many times when curling up in the foetal position with a Jim Beam sippy bottle was all too tempting. But panicking leads to inaction (see aforementioned JB sippy bottle). Focus though, is all empowering. While on the other hand banging one’s head against the brick wall chanting ‘I can’t do this’, is not.  And it hurts. A lot.

3) And the most important lesson of all: I need to change my mantra! Talk about tempting the Gods! This was waaaaay too much fun for them…

Over it…

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New YA Deal

The news is over at the Kaz site today. My next YA novel will be entitled Dead, Actually and will appear under the Kaz personna, so drop over there to check out the story and all the deets.

Good news on the Kerri front is that my lovely agent Jacinta di Mase gave me two thumbs up on the next, next novel – so I’ve got all appendages crossed for that one as well. Can’t tell you much about that next one yet – other than it has to go down as one of my absolute fave YA books – funny and sweet – and with that slightly spooky thang happening! Trouble is I have a boatload of revisions to wade through for Dead Actually (which I’m really excited about), so the relatively minor revisions on the other novel have to be put on the back burner for the time being. C’est la Vie!

So, who’s working on that 36 hour day? Someone? Anyone? Come on, come on people! Faster! Faster! Busy authors in need, here!

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Social Networking Advice From Publishers

In an effort to become better organised, Mondays on Running With Pens will be for Writers.

So, welcome to to first of my new Mondays! Today I’m looking at publisher’s attitudes to product promotion.

It’s no secret that publishers no longer have the budgets to promote books. Well, at least they don’t have the budgets to promote ‘all’ books.  However, this is the first time I’ve actually seen those words in black and white. Because that’s what Pan Macmillan have done – they’ve admitted that promoting the book is pretty much squarely the author’s responsibility.

The good news is they’ve also  offered a breakdown of the social media strategies they suggest, and offered some lessons on how to use each one.

Which of these do you use and which do you think are the most effective?

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7 POINT PLAN: Tips for Structuring a Chapter Book for Under Tens. 7 Points- 3 Acts

7 POINT PLAN: Tips for Structuring a Chapter Book for Under Tens.

7 Points- 3 Acts

There are many ways to create a good story for the under tens, just as there are many types of stories. I don’t think there’s any one correct way to reach your objective, but as I was asked this question twice recently, I thought it would be a good topic to air.

Simplified, the question was: How do you structure your funny chapter book stories for kids?

I took the word ‘structure’ at face value, and assume this refers to pacing and story structure. Okay, here we go. Be warned, though, this advice comes from what I know and do from experience, as opposed to what we might find in a craft book.

Also, I write primarily, but not exclusively, humorous, eventful stories – so there’s another warning: that this might not suit what you write.  I must also add here that I didn’t even realize I used a structure until I stopped and analysed some of my books and recognised a pattern. Who knew?!

However, for the purpose of seeing if this also works for other types of books, I’m going to use two types of story to explain this particular structure. First I’ll use one of my own titles,  ‘It’s a Dog’s Life’, Pearson © 2010, and pit it alongside perennial favourite, Little Red Riding Hood’, to describe the process.  The second text is fraught with danger and tension, and the first by contrast, is the same format but in a humorous vein. Hopefully this way we can see that the structure works despite the tone.

(And can I just Say here at this point that LRRH is one of the best examples of STRANGER DANGER in textual form for young readers that I’ve ever encountered.)

So, to my 7 Point Plan  – Basic 3 Act Structure

Act One: Beginning:

  1. Introduce the character and set up/event.
  2. Introduce problem.

Act Two: Middle:

  1. Problem escalates
  2. Reaches High Point/Crescendo.
  3. All seems hopeless
  4. Bad guys caught/problem identified/problem solved – whatever fits with story.

Act Three: Ending:

  1. Conclusion- end on a high point.

Let’s analyse this in terms of real stories.

  1. Introduce character and set up or event.

Most stories begin with an event that is the catalyst for the problem. WhenLittle Red Riding Hood (LRRH), is asked to take goodies to Grandma, this isn’t the problem. This is the event that lead to the problem. Event can also be called the ‘set up’.

In my book It’s A Dog’s Life  (IADL), when Angus comes home with braces and can’t eat the same food as everyone else, he has a problem – but it’s not the STORY problem. It’s the event that lead to the discovery of the problem

2.       Introduce the Problem

In LRRH, the problem is introduced when we meet the wolf. Without more happening, the young reader is on alert. Tension has started to rise.

In my own book , IADL, there’s no dangerous tension at the same level because it’s a comedic romp, but we feel Angus’s stress and confusion when his family all begin acting like dogs. Grandma scratching her ear – with her foot! Dad carrying the lead in his mouth and demanding ‘walkies’. The problem has arrived. What in the heck is going on?

3.        Problem escalates.

In LRRH, the problem and tension escalate when (in the wolf’s viewpoint) we see that the wolf has entered grandma’s house and locked her up.

IADL? Angus’s problem (and confusion) escalates when after confronting his now seemingly normal family (next day), he’s accused of being rude and threatened with punishment.

4.          Reaches High Point/Crescendo

In LRRD this is the point where LRRD enters Grandma’s house and it seems has  delivered herself into the clutches of the wolf.

In IDAL Angus returns home again and finds the family once more in doggy mode.  Only this time it’s way more serious. Grandpa’s tracking flies – with his tongue. And he doesn’t even want to contemplate which one of them chewed Grandma’s pongy slipper.  Now he’s really, really worried.

5.    All seems hopeless.

The wolf reveals himself and is about to consume LRRH. She’ll never get away now. Tension at its highest point.

IADL? For poor Angus, all seems lost. He’s the only one who can save/help/his family, but how can he do that? Who can he turn to?  The one person who would have a clue is clueless. Is his entire family all doomed to be doggy people?

6.      Bad guys caught/problem identified/problem solved

Enter the woodchopper! LRRH is saved at the last minute! Hearts still racing but at least we can start to wind down.

IADL: Reader is perplexed! Until Angus, in a lightbulb moment and seeing clues that were under his nose all the time, sorts out the problem! Relief…

7.       Conclusion- end on a high point.

In LRRH, the conclusion is an emotional high point. Grandma released safely and woodchopper is there to protect them until Mum arrives.

In IADL, the high point is the twist ending. Just when Angus though it was safe, that all the doggy deeds were behind them, the family plays a trick…

To conclude here, let me again reiterate that there is no correct way, this is just one structure that has worked very well for me, and the types of stories I write for that age group.

Good luck with your own work and I’m leaving you with two questions that I’d love  to hear answers to:

  1. Do you have a structure?
  2. Were/are you aware of it?
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10 Tips for Better Time Management

One of the things, as an author today, that troubles me more than any other is the dreaded Time Management issue.

I think it’s funny that writing is seen as a wonderfully quiet contemplative activity: long stretches of time spent basically contemplating your navel – or at least the navels of your characters. It’s supposedly gentle and languid…

Right. In truth in think at some stage in history that was true.  Heck, even when I began writing, that scenario was more true than it is now.

Now it’s so different. In fact it’s almost frenetic – keeping up with all the social networking necessary today is almost a job in itself and if we’re not careful it becomes the job!

So, how do we control that? I admit these are tips given to me by friends as I’ve searched for a way to juggle everything, those that I’ve researched – as well as a few that I actually have already mastered.

So…

#1. Buy yourself  good quality kitchen timer and use it. Facebooking, blogging, emailing, tweeting… We can kid ourselves that its all promo, but basically? We’re kidding ourselves. Sure promo’s important, but the bottom line is that writing is hard work, and often the lure and seduction of chatting to friends and like-minded people is just toooo seductive but the bad news is that it can suck time faster than it takes m&ms to shoot up a vacuum cleaner pipe. My tip? Decide how much time you need to blog, FB and tweet etc and set your timer accordingly. Say you decide that an hour a day is a reasonable time to spend on promo/social networking – then set that timer for an hour.

#2. Limit your email time. Decide if you want to be an author who writes books or a social butterfly who answers every person’s query on every email loop. I love emails – adore them. I’m a chatter and I love the interaction with smart, funny, warm people. Email was made for me… BUT if you find you’re not ratcheting up words on the novel, then you have to enforce some personal tough love. Use email as a treat. For every 1000 words, you get to spent 10 mins checking your mail. Sounds fair?  I think so. Now I just have to make it work! LOL.

#3 Cull your online groups. We love our groups, but we need to be realistic and even a bit brutal about how much they’re costing us in terms of wasted writing time.  Despite hint #2, an email presence is a good way to build our name recognition, but choose those groups that offer something in return for the time you invest.  It doesn’t matter if that’s support, information, promotion opportunity or light relief – but it must be something that you can measure and realistically justify. Ideally you’ll retain those groups that can do the most for you professionally. My one warning here is that you must give as much as you get. If you’re on a loop, participate when you can  – be a giver as well as a taker. But remember there must be balance – your writing must come first.

#4 Make a Blog Calendar. Know in advance what you’re going to blog about as that will save you thinking/stressing time that could be spent on your ms.  Perhaps dedicate days to specific topics/themes. Maybe one day is the Writing Life and another is an article, tip or a review or author interview.  You’ll find by having dedicated topics it also narrows the focus and makes it easier and quicker to find topics to fill those days.  It’ll also help when you are asked to host a visiting blogger, or  someone doing a blog tour, as you’ll know at a glance when you’re able to host.

#5. Prepare blogs in advance. With a list of blogs in front of you  you’ll find it easier to stay organised, but even better is that you can start to write them up if you find yourself with only a few minutes.  Waiting for the kids at sport training? For an appointment to begin? With a few minutes before you have to leave but not enough time to get into your book? Start your next blog!

This next tip was given to me by the amazing Annie West, and I’ve found it invaluable: When I’m struggling with a ms and about to have a brain implosion because the clock is ticking but the word count isn’t moving, Annie advises to get ahead with my blog posts and save them as drafts.  This is also doubly affective because it will not only get you ahead and save time on another day, but the creative process and shift away from your troubling ms, is likely to kickstart your muse.

#6 Turn off all other distractions such as the telly. It’ s amazing how many minutes can drift off in to the ether when we allow ourselves to be distracted. I admit I love television, and it takes quite a lot of self control on my part to walk away from a good story being played out before me. One of my own ways of handing this was to invest in series of my fave shows – and that way I’m not so tempted waste time there that could be spent writing.  I put them on my Chrissie, birthday and MD lists – and it helps out the fam as well.

#7 Let the machine pick up the phone calls and don’t be tempted by mobile messages. The great thing about technology is that if we use it correctly it can actually help us organise our time.  Letting the machine take the call and the mobile take the message means we can glance or listen – and decide on the importance of the call. If it’s not up at #1 (red alert) I can choose to deal with it later, at a time that doesn’t break the flow I’ve got going with the book.

#8 Set office hours. Whether you work fours hour a day or fourteen, stick with it.  Make sure everyone else knows you’ll be working for those specified hours.

#9. Don’t break the Chain. A few weeks ago I mentioned the great Jerry Seinfeld tool Don’t Break the Chain that encourages us all to write every day. I actually find this a good time management tool because I’m aware that I really, really want to be able to put a star on my Don’t Break the Chain chart. Childish? Maybe. I prefer to think of it as training. Sticking that star on my chart helps my mental state – it inspires me to keep forging ahead.  It’s empowering. I’ve structured my chart to suit my needs. A hot pink star means that day I actually made my daily word target. Other colours indicate word count levels of a lesser level. I love hot pink, it’s my fve colour and I strive to get that colour on my chart, so I make the time.

#10. Be Organised. I’ve made this number 10 when in reality it should be number 1.  Maybe I left it to last because in many ways it’s the hardest.  For things to work smoothly and for you to make the most of your writing time, I believe you have to try to have everything else around working as smoothly as you can.  I stress, as smoothly as you can… Nothing is perfect and there will be things you simply have to walk away from or accept as they are. But if it’s in your control, try to get it working effectively and smoothly.  I find doing this removes some other stresses, and leaves me more relaxed and focussed to work on my story.

They’re pretty basic hints and I make it sound easy, right? Well basic doesn’t always equate to easy and trust me, I’m still struggling through this but I’m determined to get on top of this issue this year. Join me as I try to make the most of my time management. I’m on a mission to get more productive time out of my day.

I think it can help if we simply remember why we’re here – and for me, that’s to write books well enough so I can continue to stay published.  And that must be my priority.

If you have any time management tips that could help – please share, I’d love to hear them.

Take care and I hope your day is productive!

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My next book is going to be called: “Sunshine, Lollipops and My Editor Loves This Book!” Subtitled: Title Fun.

Oh wow. What an editing marathon. Have you ever had a title for a book that became a self-fulfilling prophesy? For me, this one was it!  It was a chapter book entitled “Welcome to My Life of Doom” and will come out sometime later this year with Pearson.

And boy was it ‘Doom’! My life became Doomed! It was all doom! I couldn’t get it right for the editors! Each time I tried to replot scenes, they all seemed so weak… Not funny. Ineffective…  (at least according to me. And my husband… sigh)

I’d never had this much trouble with a book. Ever! I tell ya, this book has more rubber in it than a Goodyear Factory. Three times it bounced back and despite having heard from my gorgeous editor that she loved the final version, I’m still a wee bit scared to clebrate!  My nightmares will be filled with a giant rubber ball of doom rolling over me… Squashing me…

So, who’s to blame for this Doom? Me.

Sometimes, and this is despite 60 books, we authors get it completely wrong. And apparently this was one of them. Is it now a stronger book? Yep! No doubt. Is it funnier? Absolutely…

That title became something of a joke with me because I really did feel like I was doomed with this story. So, I got to thinking about other books I’d had trouble with – or not. One I remember was entitled “How do you hide a Crocodile”, and while I looove that story, the essence of this story remained hidden to me for weeks!

How did I find it? Well, it seems it was hiding behind a larger than life secondary character who was hogging the limelight and my poor main character was standing around watching her. The thing was she was so colourful that all the humour was coming from her – and the main characters were reduced to mere bystanders. Story Suicide!

So, I solved that problem by sending that secondary character off to Peru! (As you do.)  She was still important to the story, but with her communicating from Peru and off centre stage, so to speak, my main character and his sidekick could get on with being the heroes I knew them to be.

And the story started working. And the humour was coming from the right direction and the reader could finally be a part of the adventure instead of standing passively to the side.

On the other hand, my friend Marie had a totally different experience with one of her titles. Dream run, no problems, fell into place like a magnetic-edged jigsaw puzzle. And what was this book called: Crystal Clear!! LOL!

I loved that story.

So, is there a moral to this post? Yes. And I can sum it up by declaring here and now that my next book will be called, “Sunshine, Lollipops and  My Editor Loves My Book!”

What? Me Superstitious? Ha!

So, how about you? Have you ever had a great or bad experience writing a book that was somehow reflected in the title? I’d love to hear. Leave a comment!

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Query Letter Make-Over

It seems every time we turn on the telly, something or someone is getting a makeover. It’s the makeover age. Well folks, just as we all gasp and ooohhh at the finished, polished products/people on The Box, so can we apply that to our writing careers. This blog was actually inspired, in a round-about way, by my friend and brilliant fellow author Kylie Griffin.    As a soon to be pubbed author, she was lamenting this morning about writing synopses for her next book for her publisher. In the ensuing discussion, someone else mentioned query letters and then lo and behold, before I could blink, someone else, completely unrelated, had emailed to ask for help with her query letter.

I saw it as a sign. I’m big on signs. This one was in neons and it was telling me the world needed my help – with query letters.

Okay, so maybe I’m exaggerating my importance in the world, just a tad, and maybe I’m not an expert on query letters myself – even after 60+ books – but I certainly could not ignore sign number 3 which was in fact an article about what? Query Letters(!)  – that just happened to fall into my Inbox at the same time.

And what a great article.  It was in Jon Bard’s Children’s Book Insider, and it related 2 examples of query letters. One was from Corrine Jackson and has examples of her before and after query letters. One before getting picked up by an agent, and then one after a rejecting agent pointed out the error of her query.  Corinne was given great advice, and I strongly suggest if you’re struggling that you check out her sample query letters. This is a very well written blog and her advice is very generously shared.

Corrine’s tips from the agent were spot on. It’s information I myself have followed  in the past, as well as been given by many other more experienced authors.  Below are my own tips, which are very similar, however to see how the specific tips worked for Corrine, you must read her blog, Query Me Crazy.  

My advice: Think ‘Back Blurbs’. Short, punchy and intriguing.   

With regard to the story:  Basic rules.

1. Who is your main charcter? What does she want/need? Her goal?

2. Why does she need/want this? What has your charcter got to lose if she doesn’t achieve her goal? Make it big. Otherwise, who cares?

3. Who or what is stopping her from getting it?

4. Make sure you’ve written the query/blurb in the same tone as your story is told. If your book is deeply mysterious/dark etc – write the blurb in that tone. If your story’s tone is sassy, sharp, funny – make sure the agent or editor sees that in your work.  

5. Keep it tight. Only include references to other characters if they play a major role.

With regard to the personal side of the query:  Basic Rules.

1. Only include relevant information about yourself. It may be lovely that you love growing beets, but unless your story revolves around a person who is an expert at growing beets, really? Who cares. Sad, but true – the editor/agent won’t care. She or he is very busy. At this stage they only want to know your publishing history/experiences.

2. Make sure you’ve addressed the letter to the right person. It sounds silly but it’s a big one for editors and agents, who rightfully feel a bit put out when the letter is addressed to someone else.  

3. Make sure you are querying someone who is interested in handling/publishing your type of work.  Some agents don’t handle kids stuff. Many editors have special lines/areas they edit. Do your homework.

The second article was from YA author Helene Boudreau’s whose YA novel Real Mermaids Don’t Wear Toe Rings was released last December. This was especially helpful as it was accompanied by an explanation from her agent, Lauren Macleod, as to why this particular query letter struck a chord with her.

All good stuff, and I thank Jon Bard and Laura Backes for sharing this information via their e-zine, and the authors who shared their experiences. I wish them – and you – much success.

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Writer’s Write, Right? Don’t Break the Chain.

I don’t know about you, but if you’re a writer, do you find it hard to get back into the rhythm if you’ve had a break or holiday? I do.

And I get confused by this. I mean, I’ve learned that to push myself without a break is always to my detriment. I have to pause and refill the well, give myself  chance to catch up, revive and then push on.  I equate it to the Stop, Revive, Survive campaign and it’s served me well.

But then coming back after the break, I’m usually full of ideas, but somehow, I’m out of sync and disorganised, thus, I’m usually  slow and sluggish at first. And it irritates me. So, I had to find another way – and to kickstart me this time, I’ve adopted Jerry Seinfeld’s Don’t Break the Chain . It’s free at the Writer’s Store, which you’ll see when you click on the link.

So, what is it? Basically it’s a reward chart with 365 boxes, one for each day of the year, and you fill in each box/day that you write. You can colour, or do as many are doing (including me), and, stick on a nice shiny star!    

It’s a simple, yet effective, motivational tool and the idea is to keep the chain going for as long as you can without mising a day. And I’m excited about filling up my chart with nice bright shiny stars!

The good news is you could use it for anything. Days on a diet. (Need this one!) Days without smoking.  Days you enforced positive self affirmation.

For my younger followers: Days you read a book – or 2 or 3…

And for writers: Days you developed your career; got words on paper; promoted yourself/book; blogged etc. 

Wow – just realised I’m going to need about 10 charts!!!   

How many will you need?

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