Balancing Several Hats

Balancing Several Hats

Today’s guest post is Dianna Gunn! Welcome her, and I hope you all enjoy.

Most writers  don’t get to do it full time, especially novelists. Life is demanding  and at any given point throughout the years we are asked to wear many  hats: student, worker, writer, caregiver, friend, lover—some combination  of these hats is always demanded of us, and while all of them are worthwhile  it can be exhausting. When 40 or 50—sometimes more—hours of your  week are demanded by other people, it’s hard to find time for personal  projects.

The key is  to never give up and to know that even fifteen minutes here and there  can make a big difference. One blog post a week can be enough if you  make it a powerful post. One page a day becomes a decent sized novel  before the year is up. Every small action adds up eventually, and that  is the key thing you have to remember.

Why is this  so important? Because no matter what you have to do in a day, there’s  always time for one tiny thing. Do you take the bus? Write on the bus  both ways and soon enough you can have a substantial story. Will you  be exhausted when you get home? You can still brainstorm and try to  get into the creative flow a little bit before bed. Do you have extra  time during your lunch at work? You can write a couple paragraphs then,  too.

If you want  to do more, you have to make sacrifices. Don’t sacrifice all of your  free time because you might come to hate writing. But if you’re trying to balance work, school and writing it’s important  to cut back on the fluff in your life such as TV, random internet surfing  and going to social gatherings. All of these things can be good for  you in small doses because it’s important to relax, but they’re not  important to your life in the long run.

Know what the  priorities in your life are and act accordingly. Writing can’t always  be your number one priority, especially when you’re a novelist working  on your first draft, but you need to decide how important it is to you  and what you’re willing to sacrifice. In the end you need to find a  balance by making small sacrifices and taking advantage of every moment  you have to yourself.


Dianna L. Gunn is a young Canadian freelance writer and aspiring fantasy author. She helps manage the Penumbra blog( and runs her own blog, The Dabbler(, where she talks about every kind of writing and helps other writers reach their goals.

How Many Drafts Do I Write?

How Many Drafts Do I Write?

So I am very sick as I am writing this. Out of nowhere a cold decided to hit me in the face at work, and now I have chills, body aches (which fibro intensifies), a sore throat, and an aching head. But I’m determined to get this post out. I have no idea when I’ll slow down on the blogging. Probably once I run out of ideas or something. Or once I really hunker down with When Stars Die revisions.

In any case, I hate writing first drafts. Because I hate them, I just make the first draft a glorified detailed outline, writing whatever spews forth from my mind. I’ll put major revision notes in the margins, but I’ll just get the skeleton of the story down and reserve the second draft for putting some meat and skin on that skeleton.

Back in my younger years, I would have to do lots and lots of drafts because I was never satisfied with my writing, and for good reason: My gut was trying to tell me I just wasn’t mature enough, but I wanted to plow through to prove you don’t need age to have stellar writing. Well, generally you do. Even teens who become published have immature aspects in their novels, but they’re marketable enough that it doesn’t seem to matter.

When Stars Die took five drafts to get it to this point because I did start it as a fifteen-year-old. I suppose that isn’t a whole lot compared to how many it could have been, but I did shelve it for several years before finally deciding to bring it back out. I am on the seventh read-through of When Stars Die (the last two were proofreading, so no re-writes). Surprisingly I’m not tired of it yet.

When Stars Die is my first, truly complete novel (before AEC Stellar starts hacking it apart). My hope is that with Stolentime, I can revise on the second draft, have someone read it, and have the third draft be strong enough to send out and hopefully get contracted by AEC Stellar. Or another company is fine too. Whatever happens, right?

Truth is, now that I am more mature with my writing, I have no idea how many drafts Stolentime will have to go through. Of course I can improve with my writing; we can always improve with everything. But I’m hoping for three. Seriously. Fingers crossed.

So how many drafts do you average?

Precedence: the Story or the Writing?

Precedence: the Story or the Writing?

I was reading a thread on AbsoluteWrite that mentioned that while Stephen King’s storytelling skills may be flawed, apparently he is one of the best writers around. I have read a few of his books, but I could never really get into them. His writing is also a bit too simplistic for me. But this got me thinking about what I prefer in a book: good writing or a good story? And this is with the assumption that the quality of the writing doesn’t ruin the quality of the story, and vice-versa.

For me, I prefer the story any day over the writing. Books are about telling stories. Books can showcase the authors’ writing skills, but books are first and foremost about the story. I have read books with brilliant writing, but the stories were so dull that not even the writing made the book memorable. In fact, there were a few books with brilliant writing whose stories were so dull I stopped the book before I even finished it. I would have given these books bad ratings. No amount of good writing would have influenced by ratings in the least.

I also think brilliant writing is subjective for every person: To an extent. Blatant bad writing is blatant bad writing and this will kill the story for me, but I’m not talking about books with blatant bad writing. In any case, to me, brilliant writing and a good story go hand-in-hand. How can a great story happen without brilliant writing? I still prefer a great story over good writing because I have read books with grammar errors, but they weren’t enough to kill the story for me. The book just needed another proofread. For others, even if the writing is sub-par, but the story is stellar, they are able to forgive the book for its weakness in the writing department. Look at Twilight. The writing is fairly bad, but even some experienced writers will argue it has a good story (and I won’t argue whether or not I like it). And then there are others who are so by-the-book with grammar that starting a sentence with a conjunction seems sinful and might even ruin the story for them.

The point is, the mistakes I find in books are not going to ruin the book for me, especially if the story is strong. I’ll wish the book would have had another proofread, mostly for the writer’s sake because of the reviewers out there that nitpick, but it won’t kill my experience or even influence the rating I give.

I am a writer who wants both my writing and story to be memorable, but at the end of the day, I want the story to be remembered because stories influence people more than good writing. With a good story, the writing can be marveled as well. But I just can’t marvel the writing without a good story.

So, what takes precedence for you? The story or the writing?