Thursday, January 08, 2009

Guest Blogger Julia Harper

Today, the Playground is pleased to welcome author Julia Harper. We met her at a book signing at nationals this year and knew we just had to invite her to come play. Give her a warm playground welcome!


OMG, it’s a new year with new deadlines and manuscripts to be written—presumably by me. I don’t know about you all, but getting my butt in the chair can be somewhat . . . problematic at times. Now, don’t get me wrong, having an actual contracted deadline does sharpen the mind wonderfully, but even that doesn’t always seem to matter on a gray January day at six o’clock in the morning. Sadly, part of being a professional writer is self-motivation, which even more sadly means you have to do it All By Yourself.


So here forthwith is a short list of Helpful Hints for Getting Your Butt in the Chair:

1. Goals: Always have a goal and—more importantly—a reward for meeting the goal. Turning in the manuscript is not a reward, it’s an obligation. A new iPhone is a reward!

2. Small Goals: Some of us have trouble thinking about writing a whole 400 page manuscript, causing us to stare at the ceiling and wonder how long it takes to get a plumbing license these days. This is the reason for Small Goals of, say, X amount of pages a day.

3. Mini Goals: Some of us have trouble thinking about even Small Goals, involving as it does an Entire Day of Writing. No TV. No internet. No going outside to play in the snow. Thus we must make Mini Goals and employ not only Rewards but Sticks as well. Such as: When I finish this page I can get a banana muffin, but until I finish this page I can’t eat anything at all and I can’t even get up to go to the bathroom so I’d better finish it before my bladder bursts. Childish, but effective.

4. Woowoo: Now I’m the most pragmatic person in the world, but even I can’t discount the Woowoo. Woowoo are the things writers use to get them in the writing groove. Like the special music you play for writing about vampires. The cardamom-scented candle that must sit exactly two inches from the upper right corner of your keyboard. It can even be the spreadsheet you created in which you detail how many hours you worked and how many pages you wrote for each day. You might think this last is high efficiency, but let’s face it: it’s Woowoo.

And there are many, many more ways of placing your butt in the chair (you can list your own in the comment section,) but I still have 1,000 words to write today and I just drank two cups of tea.

Julia Harper
Elizabeth Hoyt

PS. I'm supposed to flog my book when I do these guest blog gigs, so below is the FOR THE LOVE OF PETE video.

Julia is also giving away an autographed copy of her book to one lucky commenter!


Wendy said...

Hi, Julia!

I'm not a writer but I do think those hints can be use with whatever goal a person is trying to accomplish, whether it'd be writing or something else.

But anyway, great psot! :)

Wendy said...

And by the way, congratulations on your new release! I love the cover and I'm really looking forward to reading it. Great video, too!

That guy is soooo cute! ;)

amy*skf said...

Okay, I confess, my Mom is a motivational speaker--goal setting, time management, etc. and I Still have a hard time sometimes with the writing stuff...d'oh.

But, the fact that you have to motivate yourself makes me feel a whole lot better--

Another confession, I haven't read your contemporaries yet--but your historicals are all on my keeper shelf...sigh.

Playground Monitor said...

Maybe I should start offering myself rewards; then I might make the goals. But let's talk woowoo. I have a salt candle, some plastic beads, a special bracelet and certain music. Uh oh... I can see everyone backing away.

Thanks so much for playing with us today and for the great advice.

Smarty Pants said...

Welcome to the Playground, Julia. I incorporated some "sticks" during NaNo this year. I wasn't allowed to eat lunch until I finished my words. I was also reading a series of books and I wasn't allowed to read a line of it or get online and google anything about it until I had my words. It was torture, but it forced me to get my story finished. Thank goodness I only needed 25k to do it. :)

What do you like best about writing in different genres? Do you have a favorite?

Problem Child said...

Very little woowoo here...but I'm very motivated by the reward of a nap. "Finish this scene, PC, and you can crawl under the duvet and have a nap."

It doesn't have to be normal, right? It just has to work :-)

Thanks for coming to play today, Juliz!

Problem Child said...

JuliA, not Juliz.

Sorry, not quite awake just yet...

Barbara Vey said...

Just stopped by to say Hi! to Julia. Can't wait for your new book. Loved "Hot." (but then it did take place in WI)

Crystal Lee said...

Hello Julia! Congrats on your new release.

Yes, there is woowoo aplenty: scented candle 3 inches off the right corner of my laptop; framed fairy prints on the wall flanking an exotic doll hovering high in the corner behind me; a replica of Harry Potter's wand displayed on my desktop hutch; not to mention various other articles of delight. Oh, and the vampires aren't far away... There is music, too, and special words from time to time, but I won't share those here.

Thank you for visiting with us today.

Smarty Pants said...

Crystal, the special words I mutter while writing aren't repeatable either. They're also not magical. :)


Sherry Werth said...

Hi Julia, Love your websites! I'll be looking for your new release this weekend. It sounds great! I love your historicals and duh, I did not know Julia Harper and Elizabeth Hoyt were one and the same until now.

Motivation. Lordy, I need all of that I can get. I'm working really hard on my goals this year. Ok, so it's only 8 days into the new year, but hey, 8 days is a record for me! :D
Maybe I should get a few 'things' to put me in the writing groove. Is there something special about the candle sitting on the right side? I noticed both you and Crystal do this. If so, I'm getting one today!!
I also use special words..SP and I use the same ones! : )

Instigator said...

Welcome, Julia! I like the way you think...iPhone :-) And I love the video! Mind me asking were you had it made?

I am the world's worst procrastinator. Without deadlines I really don't think I'd be motivated... Case in point I just finished my line edits yesterday and I have a project I should be working on...instead I'll probably spend most of the day on facebook :-) Am going to the gym later though. Surely that counts for something.


Kathy said...

Oh! Oh! This is a wonderful day to play. Welcome to the playground, Julia... or should I say, Elizabeth. ;) I just love your historicals!!! You have such wonderful style and your descriptions and dialogue... out of this world!

I met you when you were signing the Raven Prince at Nationals and since then your career has skyrocketed. I also got the opportunity to attend your dialogue class in San Francisco.

I've been dying to ask, why did you decide to make the move to Contemporaries? Was it a difficult change?

Do you find it hard going back and forth when you write?

And do you write both at the same time? Thanks! :)

Lynn Raye Harris said...

Hi, Julia! Great topic. I need motivation right now. I have a Feb deadline approaching, and about 30K to go. And I'm never satisfied with what I wrote, which means I angst about this being "the worst book ever written!" on a regular basis.

I love the iPhone idea. :) Hmm.

I like Kathy's question about switching between historical and contemporary. Is it hard to change the mindset? I write short contemp, which is the last thing I ever thought I'd be doing because I was working on an S/T suspense, but that's where I landed and where I got bought.

So I still want to write the longer books, though I haven't been out from under a deadline long enough to do it yet. I think the mindset switch will be easier from one type of contemp to the other though.

I am interested in how you make the change. :)

Crystal Lee said...

Sherry, I find a little guiding light sitting in the cherished spot of the favored one to be most inspirational and beneficial as I trod through the pages of my worlds. And a little aromatherapy added to the mix never hurts. I find it helps to ward away the need for certain extra special words...

CrystalGB said...

Hi Julia. A great list of hints. I love your writing. :)

Crystal Lee said...

Trod should be plod...definitely plod... see, I need that little light and I don't have that on my desk here at work...

Elizabeth Hoyt said...

Good Morning, Writing Playground people! (It's still technically morning here, anyway.) As you all probably know, I'm Elizabeth Hoyt as well as (and at the same time as) Julia Harper, and as I'm too lazy to set up another blogger profile, I'll be posting under my EH name.

Anyhoodles, thanks for the congrats, Wendy! Glad you liked the video, too. My sister makes them and she works for Borders giftcards and lego sets for her boys, so compliments are always welcome. ;-)

I started laughing when I read your comment about your mom being a motivational speaker, amy*skf...does this mean that when you were a teenager you rebeled by...procrastinating? :-D

Definitely need rewards, Playground Monitor and what is a salt candle???

Off to get some coffee!


Virginia said...

Hi Julia, Congrats on your new release! I have never read any of your books as Julia Harper but I love your books as Elizabeth Hoyt so I am sure they are wonderful. Keep up the good work!

Angel said...

Oh, look! I can comment from my iPhone too. Can you tell I'm stuck away from the computer today?

Welcome Julia! So nice to have you here. I started yesterday with my mini-goals. Revising 2-3 chapters per day. One day at a time. Thanks for the inspiration!

Elizabeth Hoyt said...

Okay, I'm back with a second cup of coffee (with chicory!)

Smarty Pants asked what I liked best about writing in different genres. I like being able to write in different voices, moods, tempo, etc. I usually write several historicals and then do a contemporary. It keeps me from getting bored with one subgenre and I find everything is fresher when I come back from writing something totally different.

And congrats on meeting your Nano goal this year, Smarty Pants! 25k is a chunk of writing--nothing "only" about it!

LOL! Naps are very motivational, Problem Child!

"Hi" back at ya, Barbara! FOR THE LOVE OF PETE takes place in Illinois because (ahem!) not every book can take place in the Badger State.


PJ said...

Hi Julia/Elizabeth! Congrats on the release! I love all your books, historical and contemporary alike. Great video but I have to tell you that the one with your brother-in-law had me ROFL. That was so funny! How'd you ever talk him into doing that?

I like your suggestion of setting small goals. I set monthly and, sometimes, weekly goals. I find I'm much more successful at meeting them than I am with any long-term goals. Right now my goal is to save enough money to attend Nationals in DC and I'm determined to do week at a time.

I enjoyed meeting you last year at Celebrate Romance and hope to see you again in DC.

What are you working on now?

tetewa said...

Congrats on the release, enjoyed the video!

Anonymous said...

I am not a writer either but it is always good to set goals - I admit I never do tho'.

I love the cover of your book and good luck with it.

Am a new gma and I will try to see her as much as possible. She lives 10 mins away and will try to read as many books as possible - I have loads of good ones on my tbr.

Pat L.

Elizabeth Hoyt said...

Okay, where was I?

Thank you for the congrats, Crystal Lee! Incantations--of whatever sort!--work, too. ;-)

Naturally there is something special about the candle sitting on the right side, Sherry! All things surrounding the Woowoo have Very Important Implications bordering on the obsessive/compulsive. Actually, at the moment I have a tiny vase of flowers instead of the candle as I was afraid of setting my desk (or the mess of papers on it!) on fire. LOL!

Really, I think new iPhones should be mandatory rewards for getting all manuscripts in, Instigator And while you are very, very good to be going to the gym exercise is not actually the same as writing. ;-)


Christine said...

Whenever the timer beeps, I get up and get a little reward like tea or a snack. When I accomplish the bigger goals, I treat myself to play time with a friend.

I haven't thought about the HUGE goals yet as far as rewards and I already have an iPhone so I will have to come up with something even snazzier.

Loved the post.

Playground Monitor said...

You can read all about salt candles and salt lamps here.

It's supposed to release ions to improve the quality of the air and atmosphere. For $6.95 and a bag of tea lights, I figured I'd give it a try. LOL!


Elizabeth Hoyt said...

Back from lunch (pasta! yum!)

Oh, dear, Kathy attended the infamous "Huh?" dialogue class in San Francisco in which I totally lost control of the discussion and we spent what seemed like hours talking about how to write "Huh". Apparently, it's much harder than one would think, LOL!

I actually made the "move" to contemporaries before I sold, Kathy. Eveyone was saying that historicals were dead and I was certainly having a hard time selling THE RAVEN PRINCE so I decided to write a romantic suspense, which turned out to be more romance than suspense and sold as HOT.

I don't find it hard to go back and forth between historical and contemporary, but I don't write them at the same time. I have had to do, say, line edits on a contemporary while writing a historical, but it's not that hard. ;-)

Good luck on that deadline, Lynn Raye! Both contemporary and historical voices seem to come naturally to me, so it's not really a "change" as much as remembering what I'm sitting down to write.

Glad you like the historicals, Virginia!

Aren't iPhones wonderful, Angel? I got mine right before the holidays and I'm spending waaaaaay too much time playing on it! ;-)


flchen1 said...

Hi, Julia! Just a reader, but I can see applying those tips to getting unstuck with some of those projects I've been putting off... and putting off... I've just got to take that first step!

Nice flogging--I've been hearing great stuff about your contemporaries (I love your historicals) and will have to pick up Hot and For the Love of Pete! Maybe they can be my rewards for that first step ;)

Anonymous said...

Welcome Julia/Elizabeth
I was looking at your most recent book yesterday from an email I received. Sounds like a great read! I'm not a writer either but when I need to get something wrapped up here at the school, I turn off my music and get to it and feel so much better when I have wrapped up said project.
I will go and check out your website and add it to those I like to visit.

Jane said...

Hi Elizabeth/Julia,
Congrats on the new release. Can't wait to read "For the Love of Pete." What are you working on now, a contemporary or historical?

Kathy said...

Huh? LOL!

Seriously, there were some people in the audience that just didn't get 'it'. You explained yourself fully and exhibited great patience. I enjoyed the class immensely. ;)

I'd like to piggy-back on what Jane wants to know. What are you working on now and what's coming up in the near future?

Elizabeth Hoyt said...

Hi PJ! Glad you liked the video. My brother in law is an actor (he has a Ph.D. in Theater!) so he puts on wigs and makeup for a living. ;-)

Kathy and Jane also asked what I'm working on. At the moment I'm winding up TO DESIRE A DEVIL and then I'm starting on and all-new historical project that I'm very excited about. All I want to say now is that I'm hoping to do some world-building with mulit-levels of Georgian society, including the criminal class, which I have a secret fondness for. ;-)

A timer sounds like a great idea, Christina! ;-)

And ions are very important, Playground Monitor! LOL!


M. said...

I'm two half-chapters away from writing 'the end' for the first time, so you'd think I'd be plenty motivated! The problem is I've left the hardest bits for last (something I lecture my childern not to do with their homework. Yes, I'm a hypocrite).

Any suggestions are welcome, and as soon as I'm done my words for the day I'm going to gleefully inform my husband that when I'm finished my manuscript, the 'Girl Writers Union' says I'm supposed to get an iphone.

Do you have a daily word goal?

And completely off-topic (and at the risk of sounding too fangirly) - Iddlesleigh's red heels made my 2008 list of notable secondary characters. Haha!

M. said...

Forgot to say: loved the book trailer! The music instantly conveyed a fun, expectant kind of mood. Did you do this yourself?

and: hello, playgrounders, my first time here, found you via Julia Harper's newsletter which informed me she'd be here - a day after she actually was, but I figure, punctuality isn't as big a deal on the playground as in the classroom. I hope so anyway.

Stefanie said...

Congrats on your new release!! :D
I already love the video, so I'm really looking forward to reading the book!

ReadingIsSoMuchFun said...

Hi Julia! It's great to see you here. Congratulations on the new release YaY!

I loved Hot & I would love to be enter to win a copy of For The Love Of Pete. This one sounds really good. Great book trailer. I look forward to reading For The Love Of Pete.

Even though I am not a writer I did enjoy the hints you have posted.


RachaelfromNJ said...

Hi Julia/Elizabeth! I don't know which one to call you! LOL

I loved Hot and have been looking forward to For the Love of Pete. I enjoyed reading your writing hints. Please enter me in this contest. I'd love to win this book!!

Sally said...

Love your tips, Julia! I think I'm going to try the no potty break one, because I seem to use that as an excuse all the time. :(

And your book trailer is ADORABLE! I love the cover, too...very fun. 'Course, I might be partial, because 'for the love of Pete' is my favorite saying! :P

Laurie said...


I just bought your historical "To Seduce a Sinner". I will definitely look for some of your contemps too.

I try to swim and walk every day. This helps me relax and escape. I also read vs watching TV. At work, I knit on my lunch break. I find that if my hands are occupied I eat less.

Keep on writing!