Random Inspirations

Welcome to my blog, full of fun inspirations and insights on writing, self-publishing, and more!

How to Write Your Novel–While Working Full-Time

One recurrent complaint I’ve heard from fellow writers (or aspiring writers) over the years is, “I have this great idea for a novel, but I just don’t have time to write it.” And sometimes, it seems that way. Work, social / family engagements, and basic stuff like running errands can consume your day, leaving you next to no time for sleep, let alone writing. The bad news: I haven’t figured out how to add an extra hour (or three or four or five) to the day. But I do have a tried-and-true strategy for how to write a book while going to school or working full-time, so let me share it with you!

A little background: I wrote four short stories and two novels exclusively during school breaks throughout my six years of pre-pharmacy and pharmacy school, and I’ve written two novels and countless short stories since I’ve been working full-time as a pharmacist. Were they all publishable? No. But did I find time in my fully-packed schedule to write them? Yes.

Try these tips for writing a novel while working full-time, and this could be you:)

Try these tips for writing a novel while working full-time, and this could be you:)

Here’s how you can Write Your Novel While Working Full-Time.

  1. Make a Plan – You have a groundbreaking idea. Kudos to you! Guess what? Many people never get that far. The next step is creating a game plan to tease that story out of your imagination and onto the page. Outline the chapters and scenes of your novel if you’re into that sort of thing; if you’re not, make some notes on the basic storyline. Then, ask yourself the important questions, i.e. What is my self-imposed deadline for writing the novel? What is my goal for this novel? Do I want to publish it, or am I just writing to have fun and express myself? Of course, you will deviate from your plan along the way, but just making one will amp up your enthusiasm to start your project.
  2. Pencil Writing into Your Schedule – I still remember a poster that hung in one of my high school classrooms. It said, ” We always make time for what’s truly important.” I don’t know who originally said it, but I do know that I’ve lived by it. If writing is truly important to you, you just have to make time for it! Ask yourself where you have little gaps in your schedule. That hour at night when you watch TV? Turn it into writing time. That half hour train ride to work when you usually doze or check Facebook? Ditto. Transform random idle pieces of time here and there into writing time, and you’ll have a novel before you know it. For more time-management ideas, check out this post on my blog archives: Five fabulous time management tips.
  3. Get Inspired at Work – You’re there anyway,  so why not look at your workplace through new eyes?  Think of the fictitious workplaces you’ve read about in books or seen on TV. Whether it’s a hospital in a Robin Cook novel, a fashion magazine in The Devil Wears Prada, or even Dunder Mifflin in “The Office,” the workplaces come alive because of the inspiration and knowledge of the writers who created them. So make your workday work for you!
  4. Monitor Your Progress – Just as making that initial plan motivates you, taking stock of your victories as you progress in your novel spurs you on to write more. Keep a journal or a notebook to monitor your progress, or just go back sometimes and read what you’ve written. One of the greatest rewards of writing is knowing that no one can do it quite like you. Your novel, in all its stages, is an achievement like no other. So bask in it:)

Why You Should Write a Short Story Today

I guess the question should be why not? It’s the rainy season (at least here in Chicago–flash flood anyone?!!), so it’s a great time to be indoors exercising your imagination. Writing short stories is the perfect way to stoke creativity, express yourself, warm up to write your novel, and much more. So whether you’re a new or seasoned writer, I hope I’ll be able to convince you to write your short story today!

5 Reasons You Should Write a Short Story:

  1. It’s a form of self-expression. We all love to express ourselves, whether it’s through speaking, Tweeting, blogging, or even “pieces of flair.” (Yes, Jennifer Anniston in Office Space, I’m talking about you. Throwback movies rule.) Writing a short story is just one more way to express yourself.
  2. It’s good writing practice. When you’re drafting a short story, the objective is to tell your most compelling tale in the least number of words. You have to be concise, and everything that happens must drive the plot forward. In today’s world of fast-paced, smart authors, fine-tuning these skills can only be a good thing. Want some practice before you start your short story? Check out Writer.ly on Facebook. They post pictures and challenge you to write a story about each picture in six words or less! Talk about extreme.
  3.  You can warm up to write your novel. I’ve heard so many writers say, “I love writing, but I just can’t seem to finish my novel!” I think this happens for two reasons. First of all, these writers may find it hard to follow through on projects. Second of all, these writers may not know how to craft a novel, with all its intricacies in structure and theme. Writing a short story can help you to overcome both obstacles: you’ll gain a sense of accomplishment and empowerment, spurring you to take on more ambitious projects. And you can practice techniques in structure that will come in handy when you’re writing larger works.
  4. You can win money! There are tons of short story contests out there, and they’re all opportunities for exposure and prizes. For example, Writer’s Digest periodically holds Short Short Story contests, where authors send their best stories (1500 words or less). Try entering some competitions. Who knows, you might win! And even if you don’t, you’ll have a short story that you can submit to magazines or publish on your own. Which leads me to #5…
  5. You can find your gateway into self-publishing. Publishing on Amazon and other ebook platforms requires research and diligence, and the best way to learn about it is to try it yourself. If you’re considering self-publishing a novel, why not start by publishing a short story? It’s the perfect way to master the platform, and to get your name out there!

I will be publishing my first YA short story, A First Time for Everything, before April 30th on Amazon and on other platforms. The story is about a fourteen year-old girl who faces a new stepmom, a cross-country move, and a whole new life. Olivia is homesick and hates her new home in California, but her cute neighbor Justin might be able to help her fix that 😉

I plan to give away the story for free, and later share the lessons learned from the experience with my blog followers.

One tip that is worth sharing with you today is to check out Tugboat Designs. They make awesome book covers that are reasonably priced http://www.tugboatdesign.net/

New book cover. Thanks Tugboat Designs!

New book cover. Thanks Tugboat Designs!


Book Review: Stealing Parker

One of the best things about writing for young adults is that I can read the super-fun new books of other YA authors and call it market research–how awesome is that?! But seriously, market research is crucial for writers. It inspires us and helps us to keep up with current trends in our genres of choice. Plus, it’s just plain entertaining.

With that in mind, I’m introducing a new category of my blog, “Readers’ Corner.” In Readers’ Corner, I will review my favorite new books, mostly YA and some NA (i.e. “New Adult,” which is geared toward an audience of 18 to 30 year-olds). Hopefully, Readers’ Corner will help you next time you want a great book to read!

Today’s Readers’ Corner review features the contemporary YA novel Stealing Parker by Miranda Kenneally.  This is Kenneally’s second book in the Hundred Oaks series, which chronicles the lives and loves of high school students in a small town in Tennessee. Her first novel, Catching Jordan, dazzled me with its fresh plot line, not to mention the humorous honesty of the main character, so I couldn’t wait to pick this one up. 

Stealing Parker

Stealing Parker centers around a seventeen year-old, ex-softball-playing, super-smart girly-girl named Parker. She becomes the manager of the boys’ baseball team because Drew, her best guy friend, talks her into it. Parker is incredibly feminine, partially because she likes things like painting her nails and flirting with guys. Mostly, however, Parker’s girliness is a reaction to her mother’s proclamation that she “bats from the left side of the plate,” so to speak. Her mom, an avid softball player, leaves the family to live with her girlfriend, which is social suicide for Parker both at church and at school. After that, Parker’s been out to prove to everyone that she’s not like her mom, hence the overt boy-craziness and her resignation from the softball team.

Parker’s fixation with the opposite sex reaches a whole new level when she falls for Brian Hoffman, the twenty-three year-old coach of the boys’ baseball team. Their late-night interludes in Brian’s truck are strictly PG (thank goodness), and both of them are aware that their relationship can’t be public. The romance with Brian lends a classic, forbidden-love twist to the storyline.

Meanwhile, Parker is struggling with her feelings toward Will (aka. Corndog), the ex-nerd who’s now cool, cute, and, just maybe, into her. She’s confused because of her feelings for Brian, and also because Drew has a crush on Corndog(!), and she doesn’t want to hurt her bestie. Add in a brother who’s been battling substance abuse (nothing hard, thank goodness, although he does drink a whole bottle of Robitussin. I’m guessing it was the DM formula, because plain guaifenesin wouldn’t mess anyone up.), and a dad who’s in total denial of everything, and you’ve got a volatile mix.

Things come to a head when Parker and Corndog are talking in the equipment shed, and Brian discovers them. He makes Corndog leave because the manager can’t be involved with the players, but of course, it’s also because he’s jealous. Then, Parker’s ex-friend Laura discovers Parker and Brian in the equipment shed, and pretty soon the rumors are flying. Naturally, Parker, Brian, and Parker’s dad are called to the principal’s office, and Parker’s dad says there’s no way she’s involved with Brian because she’s going out with Corndog. So, Corndog is summoned to the office to confirm this fact, and he finds out about Brian. Then, Drew discovers that Parker and Corndog were “messing around,” and he’s mad at her, too. On top of it all, Brian resigns and goes MIA.

Without ruining the conclusion for everyone, let’s just say the loose ends are tied up neatly. Naturally, Parker reconciles with her mom when she’s feeling at her lowest low, and, of course, she cleans things up with Drew and Corndog. She figures out her love life, too, because everyone likes a happy ending. 🙂

Overall, I’d give the book 4 and 1/2 stars. Kenneally crafts truly memorable, multi-faceted characters with authentic teen voices, and the plot line was innovative and forward-thinking. Although Parker kisses plenty of boys (and one man–yikes) throughout the book, she is portrayed as a “good Christian girl,” and there is no sexual activity. However, parents might find some mentions of alcohol (in one party scene), drugs (with Parker’s brother), and sexuality (since there are references to having sex, even though Parker doesn’t do it) to be too daring for girls under sixteen. Parker also barely eats anything, and mentions losing thirty pounds (She’s 5’7 and dropped from 140 to 110 pounds), so parents might also be concerned about the implication of eating disorders.

There is an interesting religious undertone to the book; Parker has frequent conversations with God. She even writes Him little messages, which she usually burns or throws out of windows. The hypocrisy and controlling nature of her church (which shunned her mom, and even discouraged her dad from dating a new woman Parker liked) was a little harsh, but probably realistic, because some small-town churches may tend toward that end of the spectrum. So, all in all, an intriguing and unusual read! If you want to check it out, here’s a link to the author’s web page.


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Bringing Magic to Your Audience–In Writing and Life

We writers are, above all, students of human nature. Think about it…in order to create memorable and complex characters, we have to be in tune with people and their psyches. We also need to understand our readers: what makes them tick, what fascinates them, what awes them, and what annoys them. Once we’ve found these pieces of the puzzle, the writing life becomes much more rewarding.

With that in mind, I performed a social experiment one recent weekend. I hadn’t planned  to do one; I’d just been having fun. But what I realized was that people love something magical and something different, no matter what their age or their environment.

Antonio and I were celebrating my birthday with friends. I lost one of my contacts at the first club and could only see out of one eye, an adventure in its own right, especially with a prescription of -9.0. (For those of you who don’t know eyes, that’s really bad!) So, we detoured at home to change contacts before hitting the next club. And on the way out, I grabbed the inflatable unicorn I’d acquired at Lollapalooza last summer. It seemed like the perfect party prop.

In the second club, I danced wildly, as usual. The only difference was that I was also wielding a mythical creature on a stick and squeaking it at everyone I passed. Thus began my unplanned social experiment.

The glimmering unicorn that started it all...and some glowing red eyes too!

The glimmering unicorn that started it all…and some glowing red eyes too! Should’ve borrowed the sunglasses:)

The happy rainbow unicorn brought a taste of magic to the modern world. In the club, nearly everyone grinned or reached out to squeeze it. There were a few uptight girls who didn’t seem enthused, but everyone else seemed to love it. A group of guys and  girls formed a dance circle around the unicorn, Antonio, and me. A laughing man addressed me in rapid-fire Espanol. Since I only speak elementary, cave-man Spanish, I just yelled, “Si, es un unicorn. Fiesta! Aye caramba!” Then, his friend approached and asked me in English if he could take a picture with me and the unicorn. He said they were from Argentina and they’d never seen anything like it.

The whole night was basically a free-for-all of fun, and I realized that even grown-ups love something out of the ordinary, something a little weird, something mystical. I felt like my silly, squeaking unicorn brought magic to a group of random people, and in doing so connected me to them, even just for a few fleeting moments.

This uncontrolled, spur-of the-moment experiment revealed a lot about human nature, and the lesson I learned can be extrapolated to writing. If we as writers bring magic to our audience in unexpected and creative ways, readers will be touched and enthralled by our work. And isn’t that one of the main reasons we’re passionate about writing in the first place?