8 tips for having a writer's retreat at home

12 January 2018 / Leave a Comment

The last few days I've indulged myself with a writer's retreat at home. I've taken a couple of days off work, the children are with their father, I've said no to social invitations and I've encouraged myself to write as much as possible. It's been a lovely few days of letting my characters speak to me without all the usual noise surrounding me.

Having a writer's retreat at home is a great way to knock off thousands of words in a day.

Clear the decks for a few hours, a few days or a week and see the difference it makes to your word count ...

Here's my top tips for enjoying a writer's retreat at home:

1. Make your writer's retreat at home as dreamlike as possible. Haruki Murakami says that he likes to stay in a dreamlike state when he writes. In between writing, do your best to laze about and daydream. Imagine you have a velvet chaise lounge in a wood-panelled library. Take a break, lie down and think, whatever your surroundings are like.

2. Avoid cooking complex meals, calling customer service centres to pay a bill or answering a message from a needy friend. Avoid anything that will ruin your daydream state.

3. Be anti-social and say no to seeing people. If someone asks you to catch up, the answer is no. You are taking a holiday from real life. Other people may not understand this, but you have a date with one of your true loves ... your book.

4. Read an inspiring novel. Reading motivates writers. Read for pleasure and to study 'how did they do that?' Read while you're eating breakfast, read in between writing, read before sleeping. Just read.

5. Have an afternoon nap. There is nothing as effective to re-set your brain than an afternoon nap. Set your timer for 40 minutes and marvel at the words you write in your next writing session.

6. Eat and drink well. Be aware of the fuel that you are putting into your body. Have a good breakfast and healthy snacks (see my previous posts on healthy writing snacks and best brain foods). Avoid sugar slumps. Be prepared beforehand and have some easy 10-minute meals in the fridge or freezer for dinner so that you don't waste too much time cooking.

7. Create a familiar environment for yourself each time you write. Like a baby is soothed by a structured bedtime routine; a bath, a book, a lullaby, so too can a writer be soothed by a familiar environment and routine. For me, I like to sit on my fluffy blue chair at my teak writer's desk in the study and I play Sigur Ros on the stereo - the same two albums each time.

8. Avoid mental fatigue. Write for as long as you are focused. If you feel your mind drifting, step away from your computer. Don't sit there and browse things on the internet or check your Facebook feed - all this drains your brainpower. Go on a walk or water the garden, do something pleasurable to restore your mental ability.

I'm Rowena. I'm an author and blogger. My latest novel is The Replacement Wife, available as an ebook from HarperCollins, from $2.99. Luisa tries to find a wife for her husband so she can exit an unhappy marriage happily.

Subscribe to my newsletter for tips on reading, writing and publishing in the digital revolution and receive a free ebook of Love Potion, featuring my flash fiction and a short story about stitching the heart together again ...

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5 reasons why you should be on Wattpad

14 November 2017 / Leave a Comment

Wattpad is featuring my YA novel Silver this month. With almost 700,000 chapter reads, this novel is totally dedicated to Wattpad readers! ... Silver was my first foray into writing young adult fiction. I wrote half the novel and submitted it in a competition elsewhere. It didn't get noticed, so I felt discouraged and abandoned it. A year or so later, I came across Wattpad and started posting chapters of Silver on the platform. Very quickly I found an audience of readers who started telling me 'you have to finish this' ... so I did!

I loved the readers on Wattpad so much that I went on to write another YA novel about a Melbourne street artist. This novel has now been picked up by an agent. And now, I'm writing my third YA novel. I haven't posted any of this story online ... but there's a massive part of me that's curious to know if it would connect with readers as the other two have.

That's the great thing about Wattpad - as I was writing and posting chapters online I got INSTANT feedback from readers. I knew if a chapter fell flat. Sometimes I discovered that what I thought was an ordinary scene actually had an impact on readers that I hadn't expected. Right now I feel kind of lonely writing this new book without my team of readers cheering it along or cursing at my unlikable characters.

Maybe I'll have to post a chapter or two of the new story on Wattpad, just to test the waters ... we'll see ...

So, if you're a writer, and you're able to, I definitely recommend posting your stories on Wattpad.

5 reasons why writers should be on Wattpad:

1. Wattpad has more than 60 million active users monthly and is truly global. I've had readers from as far afield as Palestine, Nigeria, Mexico and Latvia.

2. The people at Wattpad headquarters are innovative and always looking at expanding into new storytelling territories. They have Wattpad Studios, where they have partnered with the entertainment industry to co-produce Wattpad stories for print, film, television and digital platforms, a partnership with France's Hachette Roman and other publishers to produce popular books in print and digital and they are rolling out a new paid subscription plan, starting in the US and Canada. They also created Tap, text message storytelling.

3. Wattpad goes beyond traditional storytelling. You can add videos or images to your stories. You can experiment with the platform. I once did a 'pop-up story' of a novella I wrote, that I posted on Wattpad for a month only. Writers can think creatively about the way they want to use the functionality within the platform.

4. Yes, it's a great way to connect with readers, which is really, really important, but it's also a great way to connect with other authors, which is equally important. I've met a lot of interesting writers on the platform over the years and discovered some great fiction and poetry that I really admire, including works by @SeeThomasHowl and @KLCandela

5. Writer Jason Howell once said ‘let your ads be your art’ - that is what Wattpad allows writers to do. It’s all about writing, not about stylised Instagram shots or $5 Facebook ads. We are writers, we write ... Wattpad allows us to showcase our work to actual readers.

Read more about my thoughts on why writers should be on Wattpad:

8 things I love about Wattpad
Wattpad for authors: 14 Tips for Making the Most of the World’s Largest Community of Readers and Writers
- a piece I wrote for Aerogramme Writers' Studio

Follow me on Wattpad: https://www.wattpad.com/user/rowena_wiseman
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Book review: Bad Romance by Heather Demetrios

23 September 2017 / Leave a Comment

Heather Demetrios' YA novel Bad Romance waves a red flag about toxic relationships.

Buy this book for your daughter, your sister, your niece and for yourself. It's important.

Here's my 5 star review for Bad Romance on Goodreads:

If you've ever felt smothered in a relationship, like you can't be yourself, if you're torn between loving someone and hating them at the same time, then this book is for you. If you've never loved, then this is for you too, because it serves as a warning for how dangerous love can be, even if it feels safe in the beginning.

There is so much about this book that I admired - the clever second person narrative that allows us to know that Grace's romance with Gavin is going to go sour. Yet we can't help falling in love with Gavin too; for his love songs, his gifts, his good looks. We know he's evil, because we're told so on the first page, and yet, like Grace we are charmed by him. As the reader, we fall deeply for him and our hearts are crushed as he becomes more controlling and manipulative.

The added ingredients of a dysfunctional family, a mother with OCD and a miserly step father, give much depth to the story.

I'll leave you with this golden nugget from Bad Romance ... which summed up all relationships for me ... whether you're an adult or an 18 year old just finishing high school ...

'The only reason you should stay with someone is because you make each other happy. Any other reason is bullshit.'

Follow my Goodreads page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7795312.Rowena_Wiseman
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8 ways to simplify your life for more time to write

18 September 2017 / Leave a Comment

I work full time and I'm a part-time solo mum, so I'm stretched already. I've been known to fish my underwear out of the dirty laundry basket and clean the bathroom with a used facewasher. I keep my head above water by cutting corners with crocodile scissors.

I'm often asked 'But how do you find time to write?' Well, if I'm working on something I get up at 5am in the morning and I do it. I drink a long black coffee, my head is clear, and I work. I might work intensely like this for three months. At the end of that period I'm worn out. I take a break. I bake banana bread and grow seedlings and I can't stand the sight of my laptop screen. I sleep in. I recuperate.

The more experience I get, the more I know that working intensely is unsustainable over long periods of time. So here are the things I do during those periods to simplify my life for more time writing:

1.  Get less creative in the kitchen and more creative in your mind. Use your freezer, it should become your best friend. I cut up fruit and veg for my smoothies and freeze them - ginger cut into slices, bananas, betroot and kale. I bulk cook meals and freeze them. I find butchers, delis and cafes that have quality homemade meals such as casseroles and curries that I freeze for time-poor nights.

2. Make a master list for jobs to do on specific days. For example, mine is shop Monday, bulk cook Tuesday, budget/bills Wednesday, kids homework Thursday, washing Friday, garden Saturday, slump day Sunday. This clears your mind for other more important things and helps you feel secure knowing these jobs are going to get done, but on a certain day.

3. Know that you don't have to respond to emails or social media comments straight away. If you're feeling overwhelmed, let things slide until you've come up for air.

4. Let your standards drop and don't be a martyr. In an ideal world I like to bake my children's school snacks, but it puts a huge amount of pressure on me when I'm feeling time poor. Recently, they ate Aldi-bought school snacks for a month. I felt guilty. But it didn't kill them.

5. Multitask free time with research. Right now I'm writing a YA novel and the characters are into skateboarding. I'm watching Thrasher magazine's King of the Road with my daughter (foul language ... BLEEP). Sometimes on the weekends we've been going to the local skatepark so the kids can ride their scooters and I can observe the more experienced skaters (more foul language ... BLEEP, BLEEP ...)

6. Only work when you're most effective. Understand which time of the day you are most switched on and write then. For me it's first thing in the morning. If it's not flowing throw in the towel and do some monkey work and come back to it when you're feeling refreshed.

7. Don't be too proud to ask for help even when it feels like a weakness. I now know when I need to ask in favours such as playdates or babysitting for my kids if I have a deadline.

8. Reassure yourself that you have plenty of time. Time is a mindset. I'm often thinking 'I have no time'. But then, when I really think about it, I do. Sometimes I'll print off a monthly calendar and pencil in the hours I have free for a specific project. An hour here and there adds up. After I've done my 'I have time' calendar I rarely refer to it again, but I feel soothed.

I'm Rowena. I'm an author and blogger. My latest novel is The Replacement Wife, available as an ebook from HarperCollins, from $2.99. Luisa tries to find a wife for her husband.

Subscribe to my newsletter for tips on reading, writing and publishing in the digital revolution and receive a free ebook of Love Potion, featuring my flash fiction and a short story about stitching the heart together again ...

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8 steps - How to create Instagram stories for writers

27 July 2017 / Leave a Comment
8 steps how to create instagram stories authors

Ever wondered what all those profile circles are doing up the top of your Instagram feed? They're Instagram stories and they disappear after 24 hours. They are short videos or photos, overlaid with simple typefaces and silly stamps, and I've become addicted to looking at them.

Yes, these self-destructing images and videos are frivolous, but perhaps that is the beauty of them. Whereas one often agonises over the styling of a long-lasting Instagram post, Instagram stories can be lo-fi, providing a behind-the-scenes look into the life of a writer without destroying the overall presentation of your Instagram feed.

How authors can create an Instagram story in 8 steps: 

(a big thanks to my 9-year-old daughter for teaching me this!)

1. Click on the home icon down the bottom of your Instagram screen

2. Click on the camera icon in the top left-hand corner, this will come up with a few different options down the bottom including Live, Normal, Boomerang, Rewind and Hands-Free (Live will broadcast straight to Instagram, in what is known as Instagram Live, similar to Facebook Live). Experiment with these. The Boomerang is a fun way to get movement into your stories, great for recording a short snippet of something moving or film a still object but move the camera!). The trick to filming is to hold your finger on the circular button.

3. Alternatively, you can swipe the tiny white arrow down the bottom up to select an image or vid from your photo library, but only the ones taken in the last 24 hours will appear! It has to be Insta remember ...

4. Once you have your video or picture on the screen you can overlay it with text and stickers. The Aa option allows you to write text, change the type size and choose different colours. The pen option allows you to draw on the image/vid and the smiley face gives you stickers and emojis to bling it up.

5. Once you’re happy, choose the + symbol to add it to your story and you can also save it to your photo library.

6. Preview your Instagram story by clicking on your profile icon.

7. If you’d like to add your story to your feed click on the three small dots in the bottom right hand corner of your story and select share as post.

8. Like anything, see how others are doing it. Click on those profile icons up the top of your feed for inspiration!

Follow me on Instagram at: www.instagram.com/rowena_wiseman

I'm Rowena. I'm an author and blogger. My latest novel is The Replacement Wife, available as an ebook from HarperCollins, from $2.99. Luisa tries to find a wife for her husband.

Subscribe to my newsletter for tips on reading, writing and publishing in the digital revolution and receive a free ebook of Love Potion, featuring my flash fiction and a short story about stitching the heart together again ...

Read more »

Recharge your batteries with the things that give you joy

6 May 2017 / Leave a Comment

I've got a new crush - Theresa Loe of Living Homegrown. She's a podcaster, TV producer, canning expert and homesteading guru. I've been listening to her podcast series Living Homegrown religiously about how to live farm fresh without the farm. 

Last Saturday I faced one of my greatest fears. I spent three hours in my two scary, spidery garden sheds clearing them out so I can use one shed for housing chickens. Yes chickens. I've been inspired by Theresa Loe. (My very kind father helped me out, I couldn't have done it without him ... suddenly huntsman spiders dangling from cobwebs near head ain't so terrifying if my dad is there with garden gloves giving up his Saturday afternoon to help out ...)

The fear of spiders gave me no joy. But the two clean sheds gave me loads of joy. 

So back to Theresa Loe. Now that I listen to all her podcasts I feel like I know her intimately. She ferments foods, makes her own yoghurt and cheeses, she cans her homegrown produce, she makes rosemary salt, grows blueberries, parents her teenage kids and is the producer of a leading garden TV show in the US. She's organised, friendly and she has the silkiest smooth voice; I just want to sit at her table, taste her homegrown food and listen to her talk about manure tea.

In episode 64: 7 Steps to getting more done in your farm fresh lifestyle she answered listeners' questions about how she is so productive in her waking hours. Among other life-changing tips, she recommends that people write down what drains them of energy and what gives them joy and recharges them. Then people should avoid the drains and make more time for the joy.

So I did this. My drains are things like social media, certain people, alcohol, sugar, bad food and not enough sleep. My joys are gardening, good conversation, baking, yoga, napping, sharing unique experiences with my kids and friends, spending time alone and eating overpriced Kimchi from the overpriced grocery store. 

According to Theresa Loe the joys recharge your batteries giving you more focus and energy and the drains suck you dry. So ditch those bloodsucking friends and vices that drain your energy and nourish yourself with those joys.

Theresa also talks about decluttering your mind for less distracted thinking. Do a brain dump of what you want to do for the next week or the next year by writing those tasks down. This works amazingly well. All those 'must do' thoughts that cloud your head dissipate - leaving space for calmer, more creative ideas.

You too can become a raving fan of Theresa Loe by tuning in here.

And here's a pic of my spider-free sheds. Chickens coming soon to the shed on the right ...

I'm Rowena. I'm an author and blogger. My latest novel is The Replacement Wifeavailable as an ebook from HarperCollins, from $2.99. Luisa tries to exit an unhappy marriage, happily.

Subscribe to my newsletter for tips on reading, writing and publishing in the digital revolution and receive a free ebook of Love Potion, featuring my flash fiction and a short story about stitching the heart together again ...

Read more »
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