My last hurrah

I start my new afternoon nanny job tomorrow, so today I took advantage of my last weekday of freedom and visited my in-laws (and my soon-to-be-mine horse).  I'm catching up on blogging and some work this evening, and I'll be attending the NaNoWriMo kickoff party in my area tonight.  I won't be able to stay very late, because of early-morning obligations (tomorrow will be a very busy day for me), but I'm looking forward to seeing everyone and getting started on my NaNo word count!

I'm looking forward to starting this new job and having the additional income, but I know I'm still going to miss my afternoons off.  I'll have to get used to a new way of doing things — I used to allow myself the mornings to answer personal email, check Facebook, and blog, but now I'll have to be conscientious about getting right to work when I have client projects waiting for me.  I may have to get used to getting up a little earlier again (gasp!).  I've been allowing myself to stay up late reading and sleep until 10am many mornings, but with less time for working, that may not always be possible.

The other thing I may need to start doing is going out to the barn in the mornings.  I've been going in the evenings, but as it gets colder that may not be as pleasant, even if I do generally have the barn to myself late at night.  Afternoons will be out, so mornings will be my only opportunity to ride.  I expect that some days I'll want to ride in the mornings, and make up the lost work hours in the evening — a distinct possibility that my husband and I have already discussed (and he's fine with — says he wants to play more video games, anyway.  Grownup boys and their toys...).

It's definitely going to require some changes in thinking, scheduling, and time management skills, but I'm looking forward to it nonetheless.  I love the family I'll be working for, and I'm very much looking forward to the change in pace!

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By Katharine Swan On Monday, October 31, 2011 At 8:18 PM 0 comments

Gearing up for NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo begins in just a few more days.  Of course, I've been working on my novel since summertime or before, so I'm not waiting to begin a new novel like most folks are — my goal is simply to put 50,000 more words on it during November.  I'm shooting for 80,000 words total, so I was trying to get to 30k before NaNoWriMo started.

I was starting to lose hope of that happening, but then Wednesday I had a phenomenally productive day: I added a whopping 5,670 words to my novel, bringing it to 23,935.  That seems a lot closer to 30k than what I was at before (about 18k).  Maybe I'll be able to get there before October 31 after all!

One other thing I've been doing as I geared up for NaNoWriMo was to create a website for my novel.  Yes, perhaps it seems a little premature, but I'm pretty serious about this one.  The website keeps me both excited and committed, so I figure it can't be a bad thing. I'm using old (no longer copyrighted) postcards and photographs for character images, my website header, and potential book covers (I'm thinking of e-publishing when I'm done).  Doesn't it all look great?  I'm thrilled with how the site is turning out!

Anyone else planning to do NaNo this year?

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By Katharine Swan On Friday, October 28, 2011 At 2:10 PM 0 comments

A writing-only tool for the easily distracted

Recently Barnes & Noble's PubIt page on Facebook posted a link to a Writer Unboxed post, about better writing through cheap technology.  Most of the technology listed was uninteresting to me, except for the bit about the NEO — a word processing keyboard that literally just writes.  It sounds like a great little device — takes AA batteries (and they last forever), doesn't have to boot up, and doesn't have stuff like the Internet to distract you.

Of course, something like this isn't for every writer or even every writing job — with no Internet, you can't do any research or post progress updates to your blog, for instance.  The little screen would make changing something you wrote ten minutes ago, or flipping back to an earlier page to double check something, rather challenging, and I also wonder about the ability to back up — or how likely you are to lose what you've written before you have a chance to upload the text.

For something like NaNoWriMo, however — where the goal is to write as much and as fast as possible, no revising or distractions allowed — it would be ideal.  If I could find a used one for a little less, I actually might consider it — I don't think I'd get enough use out of it to justify the $169 price tag.

What about you?  Have you ever used one of these, or a similar device, and if so, how did you like it?

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By Katharine Swan On Thursday, October 27, 2011 At 3:53 PM 0 comments

A chance of pace

I had to make a tough decision lately.  I've been wanting to take on a second horse, but work has been a little slow (for a multitude of reasons: clients cutting back, I haven't been marketing enough, but also partly my own decision to focus a little more on fiction), and honestly I've been feeling a little burned out on some of what I do.  So instead of looking for more writing work, I mentioned to the family I babysit for that I was looking for more hours, and (with my permission) they recommended me to some friends who were looking for an after-school nanny.

It'll be a big change for me — aside from the babysitting, which is pretty irregular and more my choice as to whether I accept a job or not, I haven't punched a clock (so to speak) in 6 years.  (My anniversary as a full-time freelancer was this month, actually.)  For those of you who don't know, I have a background in teaching preschool and after-school programs, so when I decided I wanted part-time hours doing something other than writing, it was pretty natural to turn to my skills as a childcare provider.

My ultimate goal is to squeeze these 15 hours a week (or so) into my schedule without changing much, except for (of course) my productivity and time management habits.  I'll have the mornings and early afternoons to work on client work, my novel, and my blogs.  Hubby and I also agreed that our evenings could probably give a little too — we'll be giving up the occasional nightly movie so I can go to the barn or work (the latter if I went to the barn in the morning), but we're both okay with that.

The hope is that the money from the part-time nanny job will allow me to continue to work on fiction without feeling like I ought to be doing client work and earning more money instead.  Both families (the one I babysit for and the one I'll be nannying for) pay well, so the extra income should allow me to pursue both my fiction and my plans of taking on a second horse.  I think that's well worth learning to juggle a new schedule, don't you?

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By Katharine Swan On Wednesday, October 26, 2011 At 12:49 PM 0 comments

Getting organized in style!

Although I've been working on my novel for some months now, I decided recently that I wanted a way to get a little better organized visually.  I have an outline, but I wanted a visual stimulus to help keep me focused and organized, so I decided to put a bulletin board over my desk.  The idea was to post the images I've been collecting (representations of my characters as well as intended book covers), notes with details I don't want to forget, and that sort of thing.

I looked for a bulletin board at Target, but the cheap, plain ones are so hideous, I couldn't bring myself to even think of hanging on in my pretty little office.  Instead, I thought of buying a custom one, one covered in fabric.  I checked on Etsy, and there were tons of them, but none were quite what I wanted.  I did get some good ideas, though, so I went looking for instructions for making my own, and found this: Fabric Covered Cork Board Frame Tutorial.

Making one myself looked easy enough, so I shopped on eBay until I found a frame I liked: big enough, inexpensive enough, but still vintage.  Then I browsed Hobby Lobby's site, found a few fabrics I liked, and took the frame in with me to make sure I got one that went well with the frame.  Add a roll of cork, some hot glue, a staple gun, and a felt backing, and I had this:

Fabric covered bulletin board with vintage frame

It didn't take me long to make, and it's a much better look than a plain cork board, don't you think?  Choosing my frame and fabric based on looks instead of price caused it to cost just as much as some of the cheaper ones on Etsy, but it's what I really wanted, so I don't mind a bit!

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By Katharine Swan On Monday, October 24, 2011 At 1:51 PM 4 comments

Swamped

Ahhh...  That's better.

I just sat down on the couch, snuggled up in my blanket, and arranged the tools of my trade around me — lap desk, laptop, to-do list and time sheet, phone, and (a little farther away) my Nook.  I've been so busy lately that I don't think I've been able to work on the couch in two weeks — in fact, I haven't had a chance to do much at all, aside from the necessary client work.

Last week, I spent most of my time completing client projects and getting ready for a doll show my mom and I were selling at on Sunday (which went fairly well, by the way, even though it made for a very busy weekend).  This week, I've had doctor's appointments (for a medical study I'm participating in), family obligations, car problems, and plumbing problems eating up my time, so having an afternoon when I can sit down, put my feet up, and work without any time constraints sounds like an amazing luxury right now.

I have found a little time to work on a website for my novel — it's a little premature, but it's been fun nonetheless, and I figure having a site ready will give me some networking power during NaNoWriMo.  Doesn't hurt to have some potential readers already lined up, right?

Speaking of NaNoWriMo, it starts in just a week and a half.  Anyone else doing it this year?  I intend to provide a better accounting of myself this year, though if my weeks don't get a little less busy, adding 1,667 words per day into the mix should be interesting!

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By Katharine Swan On Friday, October 21, 2011 At 1:49 PM 2 comments

Week on, week off

Despite a busy week last week, I was fairly productive.  This week: not so much.  My mom and I spent part of the week getting ready for a doll show we're selling at this weekend, and on top of that I got loaded up with assignments from clients, so between doll show preparations and client work, my novel has been rather ignored.

I did, however, get somewhere with my search for character images.  I found someone who sells scans of old French postcards, and found quite a few from the 1920s that are perfect for my characters and my book covers.  I also started getting ideas for a blog and website to promote the books.  More on that at a later date though — I don't want to get too far ahead of myself.

I'm not expecting to be too productive this weekend, but hopefully next week will offer some time to work on my novel.

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By Katharine Swan On Friday, October 14, 2011 At 9:33 PM 0 comments

Where did my week go?

It's Friday night, but it doesn't feel like Friday night.  I'm having a hard time convincing myself that tomorrow is Saturday — and yesterday I was unable to shake the feeling that it was Tuesday, rather than Thursday.

Despite this feeling that I don't know where my week went, it was pretty productive — at least as far as my novel went.  After my Monday was hijacked, I made sure to work on it a bit on Tuesday, and ended up adding about 800 words.

Wednesday I wrote about 1,100 words, but then I got distracted by looking for period pictures of flappers to represent my characters as I've been imagining them in my mind.  From there I got excited about the idea of finding some images in the public domain to use on a future blog or on a cover if I self-publish (more on that at a later date).  I spent the entire day looking at old photos and listening to 1920s music, which wasn't exactly progress on my novel, but it was fun and got me excited about it nevertheless, so I can't totally discount it either.

Yesterday I made the most progress — my afternoon plans fell through, so I was able to spend an unplanned amount of time on my novel.  I ended up adding about 2,000 words, for a total of nearly 4,000 for the week.  Today I didn't have time to work on it, but I'm hoping to do a little more this weekend.

I was so busy with my novel all week that I hardly updated any of my blogs, and I completely forgot to update my novel's progress bar, too.  Hopefully next week, when I'm not as distracted, I'll be able to do a better job of keeping you posted!

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By Katharine Swan On Friday, October 07, 2011 At 10:41 PM 0 comments

I had a brain fart

...and forgot how busy I am.

Last week, a friend of mine from NaNoWriMo posted on Facebook, "Does anyone know how to change brakes?"  I'm no more humble than I am practical, so of course I immediately announced that I do!

I'm sure you see where this is going.  I, somehow, missed it, so I had kind of a "headdesk" reaction when she immediately messaged me asking if I'd help her do her brakes.  They were grinding and she didn't have enough money to take it to a shop.

Well, of course I wasn't going to back out then — how selfish would that be? — so I agreed to help.  And so that's what I did yesterday afternoon.

Predictably, I got very little work done yesterday.  We did the work in my parents' garage (hubby and I don't have one), and afterward I went to the Barnes & Noble cafe with my mom and to the barn to ride Panama.

It wasn't a bad day by any means, and I didn't have anything pressing to do so the timing was right.  But it's also been over a week since I added any word count to my novel, so I feel a bit guilty for not working on it.  My week is shaping up to be a busy one, in a non-work related way, so I'll have to be pretty determined if I'm going to carve out some time to work on that novel!

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By Katharine Swan On Tuesday, October 04, 2011 At 12:10 PM 0 comments

Katharine Swan is a full-time freelance writer with more than 5 years of professional writing experience. In addition to maintaining several personal blogs, she writes a variety of online marketing materials for clients, including company blogs, articles, and press releases. In her free time, she spends time with her horse, reads, and writes fiction.

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