Writing in the face of life’s distractions

Robin Hood Daffy & Friar PorkyEver notice how the world seems to be against you anytime you go after your dreams? It’s  as if some unknown force, like a great guided missile system in the sky, has decided to target you with distractions and obstacles the second you want to focus on any of your wanted desires.

For me, the moment I plan to write anything, EVERYTHING possible seems to come my way: issues at work, kids need to be shuttled to practice, wife needs me to fix a dozen things, phone calls from a friend, the dog wants to play, and… well, poop happens. And don’t get me started when I actually am writing – because that’s like a siren calling out to all, alerting them to come running for the interrupting fun!

Don’t get me wrong. I love that I have “a life” and that people need me. I’m not one of those who wishes to be a hermit crab, holed away in a far off land without another soul around me (though there are days!)

No, I simply do my best to Guard! Turn! Parry! Dodge! Spin! Ha! Thrust! anytime a distraction or obstacle comes my way. (and now you see the reason for the graphic!)

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Write all day — Even at work!


-Photo by: bulletproofbra

DISCLAIMER: While I wish there was a secret to being able to write all day long without any risk of losing your job — sadly, my title is only meant to represent the idea of keeping the writing spirit going all day long versus putting pen to paper. Is it shameless click-bait? Perhaps. Is the message I wish to provide powerful? Only you can decide!

As a part-time writer (ie someone who can’t pay the bills by writing alone), I feel I often lack the time needed to get into a writer’s frame of mind, to build on my stories, or even think about writing at all. Ignoring all the excuses we use to procrastinate (eg full-time jobs), one thing most of us can do is keep a “writer’s mind” throughout our busy day and use this mindset to be productive.

So what is a “writer’s mind” and how do you get one?

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Critique Groups: An Agenda For Success!


— Photo by Kennedy Library
Originally posted at: www.timothyafenner.com

In an earlier post, I offered up thoughts on how to being your own writer’s group. To run a successful writing group, it’s this author’s opinion that you should created and stick to an agenda.

To be clear, I don’d advocate for creating an overly detailed agenda, one so full of life-sucking bullet points that it feels more like a business meeting than a creative meeting of the minds. In stead, I suggest developing a framework to keep everyone on task and moving the group forward, to prevent any one person or subject from swallowing up the entire time.

Below is the agenda my own writing group uses:

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Writer’s Warm-Up: Less than 30 minutes for a leaner, more creative YOU!


Like finally tuned athletes, it’s often suggested that we writers warm-up before truly flexing our writer muscles. The downsides are minimal (just a bit of time) and the benefits are numerous, including:

  • Clear your head of the day’s troubles
  • Get the creative juices flowing.
  • And, more importantly, focus your attention on what you need most!

Writing warm-ups can take many forms and cover a wide variety of topics. In this writer’s humble(ish) opinion, the best warm-ups are those that focus the writer on areas that need the most attention.

  • Are you weak at writing dialog?
  • Does your world-building or scenery fall flat?
  • Do character descriptions leave you wanting more?

Once you’ve figured out what you need to work on, add that into your warm-up routine. That way you are always reflecting and working on that topic every writing session!

As an sample to get you started on your own customized warm-up, here’s my own routine and why I use each step in the process:

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Use a writer’s cheat sheet to grow your craft!


Photo by: shannon palmer

Originally posted at: http://www.timothyafenner.com

What’s an author’s cheat sheet?

In my humble opinion, an author’s cheat sheet is a short document, one that can be read in five minutes, which covers topics germane to improving the author’s writing.

Now, I’m not talking about something generic to the craft of writing (for example: http://orig08.deviantart.net/ff65/f/2013/249/8/3/fiction_writer_s_cheat_sheet_by_ripleynox-d5rbhow.jpg)

No, I mean something specific to who you want to be as a writer, what angles or topics you need to focus on in order to improve – both in the short and long term.


What should you have in your cheat sheet?

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WARNING: Revisions ahead!


Photo By: Albert

Originally posted at: http://www.timothyafenner.com


Mister Revision.

I hate that guy. Like his identical twins — edit, rewrite, and tweak — he wastes my time and keeps me from doing the things I want to do.

Sadly, as you all likely know, revision is a fundamental aspect of writing. If there is such a thing as a writing prodigy, I’m clearly not one of them and, while I have no statistics,  I doubt there are many writers who are.

So this “revision” thing is a necessity. Fine. But how do you do it without getting trapped in Revision Hell (ie being stuck in a never-ending revision process)?

There are MANY articles online that have suggestions on how to keep from straying into the bad lands — but I wish to focus on one particular area that has come up in my writers group several times:

When should revisions start?

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EDITING: What words should be cut?


Photo By: Matt Hampel

Originally posted at: http://www.timothyafenner.com

Editing is not my favorite thing to do. But unlike a writing prodigy, I have learned my first drafts are just not good enough for general consumption (and has led to indigestion by those who dare try).

As part of my editing checklist, I have created a listing of phrases or words to seek out (and possibly destroy) in order to tighten up my prose and, hopefully, make my drivel somewhat tolerable.

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Getting Published = Getting Serious

16559284088_e3bf1b5415_kPhoto by: Wassim LOUMI

Originally posted at: www.timothyafenner.com

So you want to be a published author, to be bathed in the glory and riches (there are riches, right?) that comes with seeing your name printed alongside the perfection of your story. However, you may have heard that getting published is not necessarily an easy task, that it takes something called “hard work” and “persistence” and that you have to be prepared to {gasp}… wait.

And you wonder: Are there any secrets to help speed this all along?

I believe there are!

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STORY: Newer Model (Flash Fiction | SciFi)

Newer Model – 1200 words

By T. A. Fenner

I was quite proud of myself for writing this story while sitting for an oil change in a car dealership. Sadly though, a friend pointed out that this story is basically the same as a Twilight Zone story.

While I’ve never seen the show (before my time), I nevertheless did not like the idea of my original story not being so original after all — and as such, I’ve decided to just put it out for free vs trying to get it published.

So here it is… in all of its “original” glory!

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Critique Groups: Tips on starting your own writing group

— Photo by Kennedy Library
Originally posted at: www.timothyafenner.com

As a follow-up to a prior post on writing groups (are evil… or are they?), here’s a quick rundown of the key factors I feel are necessary when forming a successful writer’s group.

Before we begin, please note that every writer’s group varies — in personality, needs, format, expectations, etc. — and I doubt there is a magic standard to fit all scenarios. That said, look for TIMMY TIPs for examples of how my group does things.  (and no, I don’t like being called “Timmy”)  🙂

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