Archive for March, 2015

Last week, and for the next few weeks, I’m going to post on Procrastination. These are not my words – I downloaded this PDF years ago, and there is no identifying info on it, so I have to go with ‘author unknown’. Here’s 8 ways to stop procrastination.

8 ways

We all procrastinate to some degree. There are always other things you could be doing. Some say there’s no cure for procrastination so perhaps we need to seek not to prevent it but to slow it in the best way possible. When you’re working on the most important thing on your to-do list, that’s good, but you’ve delayed working on lesser things haven’t you?

Procrastination is a way of avoiding depression or coping with emotions that lead to depression or stress. This brings only temporarily relief and the next day when you awaken, no little fairy has done the work for you and the emotional stress of not completing your project returns. So, what to do?

Get organized. Now don’t procrastinate on this also. Make lists but keep it simple and realistic. Include both small and the large things to do on this list. The completion of small things could lead to big accomplishments.

When a task is completed, mark it off. It’s fun to watch your list grow shorter. You’ll be surprised how this gives you a feeling of success and spurs you on to greater success. Classes in organization are offered in many places and may be just right for you.

Prioritize your lists. The most important task is not always the most pleasant. Should you pay bills that are due to avoid a late payment penalty or you should you clean out a kitchen utility drawer? Meeting deadlines gives your morale a boost and sometimes your pocketbook too.

Take a step at a time and slice the work pie into smaller pieces. Before you know it the whole pie has been eaten. It’s been said that the longest journey begins with the first step. It’s the same with an overwhelming task. By the yard it’s hard, but by the inch it’s a cinch.

Have realistic expectations. If you have a large task that’s causing anxiety, do some of the smaller things related to the task as a whole. Thus the whole becomes manageable.

Get a calendar to list dates and appointments and to make sure you meet all deadlines for both short and long term goals. Look at your calendar frequently and don’t overbook. White space on your pages can bring a feeling of peace.

Don’t believe you must do everything perfectly. You’re human and humans make mistakes. That’s evident if you watch outtakes of a TV show.

Get started. Each day schedule time to work on the task at hand and eventually the task will be finished. Reward yourself and anticipate that reward as an incentive to work. Go back to work refreshed.

Allow adequate time to complete your task and don’t panic if you fall behind. Be flexible. Extensions can usually be had but don’t work with this in mind. Many projects never get done by feeling you’re the only one who can do it properly. A good leader is one who delegates and has a Plan B.

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ProcrastinationFor the next few weeks I’m going to post on Procrastination. These are not my words – I downloaded this PDF years ago, and there is no identifying info on it, so I have to go with ‘author unknown’.

What’s the Real Definition of Procrastination?

Let’s start with the definition from the dictionary. Procrastination is the act of putting off, postponing or delaying intentionally and habitually something that should be done. This act may make you feel guilty for not being productive and responsible. You become stressed and this becomes an excuse to delay what should be done even further.

When you procrastinate, do you feel a low sense of self-esteem, not worthy and distressed that you’re not meeting others expectations? Do you overestimate the size of a task until the thought of doing it overwhelms you? It’s said that procrastinators expect too much from themselves and become out of touch with reality and their goals are in reality only wishes and dreams.

Procrastinators are often times perfectionists. They spend an inordinate amount of time trying to perfect one small task while the larger, needed task goes unfinished or not begun.

Perfectionists and procrastinators often continue to work on a tiny part of a project to avoid the evaluation of others, thus becoming a workaholic. The underlying problem for some perfectionists is that they are egocentric and will settle for nothing but the ultimate.

Psychologists classify procrastinators as two types: relaxed and tense or anxious. The relaxed type directs their energy into tangent tasks, thus avoiding what needs to be done. They view the whole elephant and are unable to take a bite at a time. They see the task as not pleasurable and enjoyable and demand instant gratification. Procrastinators gain the gratification by doing a more menial chore.

The anxious type is usually unrealistic about time and goals lacking the ability to focus and tell themselves they will start later. They rationalize reasons for delaying a beginning.

As time runs out, guilt and anxiousness increase leading to depression and even withdrawal. Failure, delay and unmet goals become a cycle with an unending loop that continues to repeat.

Procrastination is common in the academic world when a student waits until the last minute to start an assignment. Some students say they work better under pressure but this usually results in inferior work. They know the work must be completed to complete the course but other more pleasurable distractions get in the way.

If you avoid reality you could be a procrastinator on the road to a mental health disorder. A compulsion to surf the net, play video games constantly, too much television, or even using sleep as an escape could require professional help. These things are not bad in moderation but start with being honest with yourself.

Do you see yourself in these definitions? This is an attempt to characterize the act of procrastination and help you determine if you are, in fact, a procrastinator. No real solutions to procrastination are offered here. The solution to most problems begins with awareness and admitting you have a need. We’re all guilty of procrastination to some degree. Seek what degree is best for you.

Next week: 8 ways to stop procrastination.


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Dialogue Tags and Action

I cannot speak highly enough regarding two editors I have worked with. I thought it might be useful for you to share what Megan taught me. Below is an extract from her opening comments regarding book 1, Operation Foxtrot Five…

You have great dialogue, but I would like to address your use of dialogue tags. Dialogue tags are what come after a line of dialogue to let readers know who is speaking (he said, she asked, etc.). Many of your dialogue tags are combined with an action tag. For example:

1) …Andrew Hallen said as he rolled his chair across the floor and started tapping at the keyboard of his computer.

2) “Morning, ma’am,” he said cheerfully as he passed the bunch of red roses to her.

 Combining action tags and dialogue tags is okay sometimes, but majority of your dialogue tags should be separate from action. The ratio right now is off. Luckily, though, this is an easy fix. You have two options: (1) delete the action tag altogether or (2) create an action beat.

Here is an example of an action beat:

             Original sentence—“I love you,” he said as he took hold of her hand.

            Revised tag—“I love you.” He took hold of her hand.

 Do you see the difference? The second version is more concise and a smoother read. All we’ve done is remove the said, let the dialogue stand alone, and left the action. It makes a huge difference in readability, and it can reveal character traits. Action beats are sharp and keep the pace strong. You do use action beats in your book, but more often than not you combine the dialogue and action tags. I encourage you to separate them, delete the action, or just get rid of the dialogue tag altogether and rely on the action beats to do the work of both.

One final note on dialogue tags. Said is the invisible dialogue tag, meaning most readers don’t even notice it—they skip right over. This is good, because it allows a reader to focus on the story instead of the tag. Words like you used a lot: cried, instructed, admired, etc., cause a reader to stop and focus on the dialogue tag instead of the dialogue itself. Keep an eye out for these and any excessive dialogue tags. I’m marked most of these, but feel free to adjust or delete more.

I hope you found this useful, and thank you, Meagan.


(c) DJ Stutley 2015

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Passive Voice

To be honest, I didn’t have the faintest idea what Passive Voice meant until I had had several books published. And then I was more confused than ever. It was sheer luck that most of the time I had it right.

I recently came across another blog post that came up with this very clever way of understanding passive voice. This is what was posted…

So here’s a quick tutorial on passive voice.

          In passive voice, the object of an action is the subject of a sentence.
         For example: The ball was thrown.
         (The ball did not do the throwing, so it’s passive voice.)

Please go and have a look at the whole post – it is certainly well worth reading. Just click here and it will take you there.

Here’s to a productive writing week… :)



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