Saturday, May 4, 2013

Guest: Robin Spano!

My guest today is Robin Spano, Author of Dead Politician Society, Death Plays Poker and Death's Last Run. As a bonus, she is talking in her blog to another great Canadian writer, Deryn Collier, author of Confined Space. I've read all four of these books and loved them all. Robin's heroine, Clare Vengel, is a unique, feisty character that I know you'll fall in love with.

About Robin:
Robin grew up in downtown Toronto and now lives in Lions Bay, BC. When she’s not lost in fiction, she loves to get outside snowboarding, hiking, boating, and riding the curves of the local highways in her big black pick-up truck.

Her historical role model is Winston Churchill, more for his independent thinking than his drinking. Her secret dream was to be one of Charlie’s Angels, but since real life danger terrifies her, she writes crime fiction instead.

She’s a founding member of Off The Page Toastmasters – a public speaking group for writers.

She is married to a man who hates reading and encourages her endlessly. Which is great, because it’s Keith who drags her away from her computer to do all those fun things outside.

In this blog, Robin talks about the writing process and how she manages to keep the momentum going. Something all writers can identify with!

                                       And now - Robin's inspirational "Power Hour" blog.

Power Hour
aka How to keep your MS chugging forward even when life conspires not to let you

My friend Deryn Collier and I were texting each other a few weeks ago.

I was distracted with a workload full of promotional and volunteer projects. New tasks were coming in faster than I could complete them and my email inbox was out of control. I normally hoard the whole morning for fiction, but I felt if I didn't attack my piling up to-do list, it would mushroom into oblivion and I'd disappoint a lot of people. Writing felt selfish.

Deryn had an edit deadline for her second novel and her kids were home for March Break. She loves spending time with her boys, admiring as they land handsprings on the couch behind her desk and overseeing the invention of labour-saving devices made of Popsicle sticks and elastics. But since she works from the living room, they were more than a little distracting.

We both wanted to work on our fiction, we technically had the time, but we couldn't find the concentration.

So we started the Power Hour.

Purpose:  To find the focus it takes to write a novel.

Required Apparatus:            1 communication device
                                                1 friend who writes
                                                1 work in progress (or idea in the mulling stage)

  1. Via text message, we declare our intent for one hour's work.
  2. We work for one hour toward our independent goals.
  3. We check back in, again via text, and say what we've accomplished.

(It should go without saying that we listen to and care about each other's goals.)

My Observations: I immediately noticed an increase in productivity.

Declaring intent helps solve the problem of staring at my manuscript wondering what to do next. If I know I have one full hour to figure out how Harriet outsmarts the old French guy in the cell phone store, I can put my mind to that, like it's a level in a video game, and either come out successful or make headway that I'm happy with.

I can shut out all the other tasks I have that day since I know that in one hour, I'll be free to attack them.

Writing this way is more fun. It's like having a colleague and a water cooler but keeping the long hours of solitude this profession requires.

Deryn's Observations:  The power hours help me with both focus and accountability. Setting a goal is key, and I know that at the end of the hour Robin's going to ask me what I got done, so that keeps me in line. I’m not going to wander away from my desk if I know that she is there, working too. I’d feel like I was deserting her!

Articulating the mini-goals also helps me realize just how much I do get done on any given day. Writing 100,000 words is a big job, and if I waited until I got to the end to celebrate it would feel like an unending grind. Plus it’s just more fun to have another writer to connect with, to give and receive encouragement on the crappy days and for the occasional kick in the pants, because we all need those sometimes.

We asked each other: What kind of writing is a power hour best suited to? Editing? New writing? Both?

Deryn: Both! I just finished a substantive edit and the power hours were great for keeping me very focused on quantifiable goals. I’m going to revise this chapter. I’m going to power through this whole section. Those were the kinds of specific goals I was setting. Now, I’m using power hours to focus on a brand new project. Who is this character? What is this setting like? How does this theme play out? The goals are more ephemeral, but at the end of the week I’m much more aware of having moved the story forward than I might be otherwise.

Robin: I've only tried it so far with my first draft stage MS, but it's been equally good for polishing as it has for generating new material.

And a perk: I've used power hours to sift through my daunting to-do pile. Picking one task at a time—one blog post, one article, one blurb for another writer—has helped me organize the chaos and feel in command of my workload again.

Conclusion: Highly recommend the power hour to help focus on your work and claim your time for fiction, guilt-free.

I highly recommend that you go to Robin's website right now and order all three books!                                    

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