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Danielle Donaldson blogs here. What I'm reading now. What I'm writing now. My various thoughts about romance novels, publishing and writing at large and the sexy stuff that comes to mind! 

Filtering by Category: For Writers

Writing 25,493 Words in One Week

Danielle Donaldson

Last week, I set the intention of writing 3500 words a day while also living my normal life and completing all my other responsibilities. I ended up writing 25,493 words in one week while also going to the gym, two grocery store runs, multiple child activities including library story time, a hike, two soccer practices and a game, attending a wedding shower of a dear friend, cooking every meal at home, completing all weekly household chores, helping with homework and solo-parenting a good chunk of the time.

There were a few reasons that I wanted to do this:

1) 3500 words is enough to be really uncomfortable for me. Sitting down during my youngest kid’s nap time and writing 1000 words was pretty doable for me and because of that, I was getting complacent and honestly, a little bit bored with it. I wasn’t driven. I wasn’t trying.

2) I really, really wanted to go on a writer’s retreat. I kept day dreaming about the possibility of holing up in a cozy cabin and writing and writing as much as I could without interruption or listening to my kids play Roblox in the other room. I was feeling like I couldn’t write unless I was alone and that wasn’t conducive to living my life.

3) I haven’t felt like a “self” in a while. Being a stay-at-home parent means that all of my day revolves around other people. People that I love dearly, of course, but when I’m supplying most of their daily needs (eating, sleeping, bathing, butt wiping, homework help, cleaning up, etc), it’s incredibly easy to lose myself in the shuffle.

This is what I learned when I pushed myself this week:

1) Do not skip a day.

Tuesday was a busy day because I had to shuffle my two kids between multiple activities and do a grocery run. I only wrote 606 words that day. In an effort to not fall behind any more than I already had, on Wednesday, I wrote 6734 words to catch up. That’s a lot of words and the next day, my brain was mush. I pushed through but anything over 5000 words in a day and I’m gonna need to lay down for a nap.

2) Accountability and a Healthy Sense of Competition.

I belong to a Facebook group where we push and encourage each other to write every day so I was logging my word count every day in a personal spreadsheet and at the end of the week, I got to share my total word count. I wanted something to be impressive.

Also, I commented a lot on my other online writing groups everyday on what I wanted to accomplish and where I was. I blew up my own Twitter feed with updates. It might have been annoying to others, but it was the one thing that really kept me going. It’s amazing how quickly my competitive spirit kicks in if I alert other people of what I’m trying to accomplish.

3) I am capable of hard stuff.

I always felt like it would be unfair to take time and energy away from my kids to spend time on something that really only fed my own spirit. Just like my kids are having screen time while I write this post. THE GUILT! THE GUILT IS SO STRONG! But, my kids were totally fine. Every one still got to school on time, and to bed on time and ate food every day and were cleaned and showered. Somehow, the world kept on spinning while I also accomplished something that I am proud of.

4) That being said, I would definitely accomplish more if I lived on an island.

If this is what I can do while life is also happening all around me, I know that I could accomplish so much more while holed up in a room with snacks and good natural lighting. I love my family but little kids have a lot of little needs and wants and it’s really difficult to get into the flow while also being begged for some cheese or breaking up another fight about Legos.

5) Break it up.

The day went a lot more smoothly when I broke up the daily goal into smaller chunks. When I got 1000 words done early in the day and only needed 2500 later during nap time or after kiddo bed time, it was a lot easier. When I was staring down the mountain of the entire 3500 amount at 9 o’clock at night, it made me want to curl up in a ball and go right to sleep.

Overall

I did it! Sometimes it was like I was pulling the words out of the sticky mud on my mind, but sometimes they flew from my brain straight through my fingers and onto the page. Either day, I got them down.

From here on out, I think I need a more manageable daily goal, but not something that will make be feel too comfortable. For the next week, I’m going to shoot for 2000 words per day and adjust from there.

iOS Screen Time and Productivity

Danielle Donaldson

Recently, there was an iOS update for my iPhone and iPad that included a new feature of managing and tracking screen time. At first, I was completely annoyed. I already know how much time I waste on my phone every day. I already feel a lot of guilt about it, I didn’t need the very thing that I was addicted to constantly reminding me to stop being addicted to it. 

Yet, this is also NaNoWriMo month and distractions from writing my novel are abound. I need to reign in my phone use and had to do it quickly.  

From the Screen Time feature, I could tell that I wasting hours and I mean hours scrolling through social media needlessly. But, I could also set myself limits on that usage. So, I buckled down and set week day limits of 2 hours on all social media apps including Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Tumblr, etc. All of the apps where I could lose myself in doing nothing productive.  

And since then, I have written every single day and met my word count goals. *insert self high five here*  

If you are like me and lack most self-control around device usage. It might be helpful for you take a look at this feature on your device. Even if it makes you feel like you’re grounding yourself from fun, you might surprise yourself and not even miss it. 

Image from my iPad which I don’t actually use that often. Trust me. You don’t want to see how often I use my phone ;)  

Image from my iPad which I don’t actually use that often. Trust me. You don’t want to see how often I use my phone ;)  

The Beginner's Guide to Self-Care

Danielle Donaldson

The Importance of Self-Care  

Self-care is the act of taking care of one's self. It's refilling the creative well. It's recharging your spiritual, emotional, creative, physical batteries. For some, it means staying home and not talking to people. For others, they need social interaction with others to feel recharged. It's about the balance in life from taking care of other people, fulfilling our responsibilities as constructive members of society and doing the day-to-day activities that keep our lives going smoothly. 

As a writer, I find incredibly important to take care of myself or I have nothing to put onto the page. As a mother and a wife, I find that if I get burnt out, I'm less patient, less compassionate, less able to give myself to another human being.  

Part of the safety briefing on an airplane says that if you are traveling with a child, that you must put on your air-mask first, because if you don't, you will pass out from oxygen deprivation and not be able to help anyone. Self-care is exactly that. It is making sure that you don't pass out from oxygen deprivation or emotional exhaustion or spiritual burnout.  

For the month of September, I will be exploring the importance of self-care and giving some examples of it.  

Examples of Self-Care

If you are an introvert, you might enjoy activities that are quiet and done on your own. 

  • Sipping some tea on the front porch  
  • Listening to a podcast in the bathtub
  • An afternoon run with your favorite playlist
  • Putting together a puzzle 

If you are an extrovert, you may enjoy activities out with other people.  

  • Spending time with family
  • Happy Hour with co-workers
  • Camping with friends
  • Trivia Night at the pub

Goals of Self-Care

    The main goal of self-care is to make you feel better. It's basically the human version of unplugging a router and plugging it back in.  

What are you favorite forms of self-care? What refills your creative well?

Reading List: Did Not Finish (Why I Would Mark a Book DNF)

Danielle Donaldson

Recently, I was reading a hot erotica paperback that I picked up at The Ripped Bodice, a bookstore dedicated to romance and erotica titles. The writing was great. The sex scenes were hot. I was invested in the characters, but as the timeline flashed forward and readers were filled in with what had happened to the characters in the years since we last saw them.  

Like a great writer, the author didn't give the readers an info dump on what had happened in those 10 years. Instead, she was feeding us cookie crumbs of information. From the first little bit, I had an uneasy feeling. She mentioned that the character had nursed a baby, but there was no baby in the story yet. That was around page 20. Around page 35, we learn that she has bullet wound scars. Oh, no. That doesn't bode well. Around page 45, we found out that the female main character had panic attacks and four locks on her door. Okay.... Around page 50, I had to put the book down. I realized that the heroine had lost a very young child or baby in some sort of gun fight/crossfire situation. 

I couldn't do it. No fault to the author. It was all on my emotional mentality. I'm not in a good headspace to handle reading something like that at the moment. My anxiety is too great.   

It's Me, Not You

It's okay to break up with books that you aren't feeling. Maybe you don't connect with the characters, maybe the word choice is driving you bonkers, maybe the subject hits too close to home. It's okay to stop watching tv shows that are boring to you. (I'm look at you Fear the Walking Dead.) It's fine to donate clothes that no longer suit your style. Stop eating food that makes you feel crappy or tastes bad. Stop listening to music that you don't actually like just because an old boyfriend tried to convince you that the Violent Femmes were, like, the best band ever. You don't owe anything to anyone. 

Maybe I'll pick this book up again. Maybe I won't. It won't stop me from reading. It might not even stop me from reading something by this author again. But, I am not obligated to finish something that doesn't serve me.  

Know Your Why

If you stop doing something, it's always healthy to know why. As a writer, it is important to me to know why I stopped reading a book or why it feels like such a burden to bear when I should be excited and entertained by a book. It informs my own work. If I am bored as a reader, chances are that if I do something similar to my readers, they will also be bored. 

Know why you're doing something. If you are finding yourself grinding your jaw and powering through something (ahem. Season 7 of Gilmore Girls), you should also know why you can't give it up. I find that I keep hoping that something will turn a corner. That it will finally get better. But, most of the time, ain't nobody got time for that.  

 

We Can Do Better

I find myself coming back to this thought since I put down that book. As writer, as story creators, we can do better than to give our heroines an overused, lame storyline. We can do better than to rest on the violence against women trope to give our characters conflict (I'm calling you out: Outlander the TV series). As women, we have more internal conflicts than child loss/miscarriage, sexual assault, abuse in relationships, or infertility. Black Widow is rich and dynamic character. We don't really care about the active state of her uterus and she didn't seem to either until that disaster of a movie. 

Yes, those issues are intense and demand a lot out of a person. But, we lean on them too hard. Women have other issues. People have other issues and conflict and desires. Let's look at those. Let's tell those stories. The story of the accidental mother who regrets having children would be a harder story to tell. The story of abusive (but not abused) female is harder to tell. The story of the sociopathic female is harder to tell. The story of the career driven, child free by choice, female is harder to tell. The asexual or transgender or pan sexual or gender fluid or.... Those stories are harder to tell and can be rich and dynamic in their own right. 

I know that I'm going to challenge myself to write better stories, to read better stories. We should expect more.  

 

What is something that you have started but never finished? Why? Let me know in the comments.  

Camp NaNoWriMo July 2016 Day 1

Danielle Donaldson

Day 1 in the bag.  

 

Word count: 1741

 

I'm working on finishing a rough draft of my next novel. In short, it's a love story between an overworked career woman who is afraid of commitment and the male sex worker she hires to fulfill her baser desires.  

 

So far, so good. I'm also working off of the beats I wrote a year ago so I wonder how much that is attributing to my ability to write quickly. In the upcoming days, I'll post little snippets of what I've written.