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Top 3 Reasons I Start Skimming a Book

3 top reasons skimming book, jill kemerer

I love to read. Nonfiction, novels, articles, anything really. They’re all good! But, naturally, some are better than others. Or maybe those particular books just aren’t hitting me at the right time or when I’m in the right mood. Who knows?

I typically give a book 50-75 pages to get into it. If I find myself wanting to read one more page to see what happens, it’s a winner. If I’m okay with setting it down but know I’ll pick it up again soon, it’s still a winner. If I feel completely ambivalent or even hostile to a book, I give up on it.

Sometimes I’m initially engaged with a story but at some point, I’m just no longer connecting with it. That’s when I start skimming.

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April 2022 Goals

Writer Productivity. April 2022 Goals by Jill Kemerer

My writer productivity skyrockets when I set monthly goals. At the beginning of each week I break them down into daily tasks that will work within my current schedule. Do you know how great it is to finish projects? Of course you do! For me, setting monthly goals makes it all possible.

Every month I share how I did the previous month as well as my new goals. Let’s get to it!

How Did I Do? Jill’s March 2022 Goals

  • Writing
  • Revise and polish Wyoming Ranchers Book 5. CHECK!
  • Work on my nonfiction project for 30 minutes/day, 4 days/week. CHECK!
  • Continue plotting new cowboy series. CHECK!
  • Health
  • Exercise 5 days/week (Alternating between the two 12-week programs). CHECK!
  • Two raw veggies/weekday (I’m cutting myself some slack on the weekends). CHECK!
  • Drink minimum of 72 ounces of water every day. MAYBE CHECK. I haven’t been tracking. Whoops!
  • Other
  • Read 15 minutes of fiction every weekday. CHECK!
  • Work on a craft, jigsaw puzzle, research project or anything to get me out of my boring winter routine. CHECK!

The dregs of winter are good for keeping me inside and focused. I met all my goals, but I have to admit, March is always a bummer for me. I’m ready for longer days, T-shirts outside, regular walks and sitting on my deck. It’s pouring rain right now, but at least it isn’t snow!

Writing is on track. I ended up getting final edits for a book, so I squeezed those in, and I drafted the first fifty pages of my next book. It was a very productive month. Health? Well, the exercise and veggies is on track, but my portions keep increasing and I’ve been eating too many sweets. I’m no longer tracking my water intake–I always drink a lot of water. As for Other, I’m happy. I’ve read several good books lately, did a jigsaw puzzle, broke out the old crochet project (for one night, but still!), and experimented with pressure canning.

Jill’s April 2022 Goals

  • Writing
  • Fully plot each book in my next series.
  • Draft the proposal for next series
  • Start setting up promotion for Wyoming Ranchers book 3–Guarding His Secret.
  • Work on my nonfiction project for 30 minutes/day, 2 days/week (I have multiple commitments every week of this month, so I’m only working on this for 2 days as opposed to 4 days/week.
  • Health
  • Exercise 5 days/week (Alternating between the two 12-week programs)
  • Two raw veggies/weekday (I’m cutting myself some slack on the weekends)
  • Other
  • Read 15 minutes of fiction every weekday
  • Enjoy all the friend/family “dates” on my calendar.

April is shaping up to be BUSY! I’m okay with that! I’m looking forward to seeing friends and family I haven’t seen in quite a while. My writing goals are ambitious, and I’m fully aware I might not meet them. That’s okay. I still want to list them all, just in case.

What were your March goals? Did you meet them? What helped you this month? What held you back?

What are your April 2022 goals?

Thank you for sharing with me!

The Unsatisfying Days

The Unsatisfying Days, Jill Kemerer blog

As I write this, I’m pushing through another Monday. I’ll be honest. The second I woke up this morning I knew it was going to be one of those unsatisfying days. Why?

  • Well, Monday. That probably says it all.
  • I didn’t sleep well.
  • It’s the end of March and STILL snowing.
  • I needed to get groceries this morning.
  • I had almost no clean clothes (which meant in addition to the general Monday-ness and groceries, I’d be doing laundry as well).
  • I’m pretty sure I gained ten pounds overnight.
  • The workout plan I’m doing this week features LONG workouts. The thought of 45-50 minutes of difficult exercise this morning made me gag.
  • My original plan for my writing this week has to be adjusted because I received copyedits for a book on Friday (this wasn’t unexpected, but I still have to figure out how I want to approach the week).
  • I just wasn’t in the mood. For anything.

I’d love to tell you that as the day wore on my mood improved and I thought, Yeah, Monday, you and me–we got this! Alas, no.

I took extra time over my coffee. I’m very glad I did.

I got groceries, and they took longer than normal because the store is resetting its layout. Also, they were out of half and half, which threw me. Like, I’m taken aback in a bad way. I can handle no bread on the shelf. But no half and half? Mind. Blown.

Since meat was on sale, I spent 30 minutes trimming fat, cutting it up and repackaging it for the freezer. Dealing with raw meat is not my favorite activity. At one point I seriously gagged.

All that laundry? Still doing it. Still folding it. Still putting it away.

The workout? Sweaty.

My writing plan? Still unsettled.

Look, I know I’m a whiner. And I know, I know, I can hear that chirpy friend in my ear, “You should be thankful the store has food. You should be thankful you have money to buy the food. You have your health. You have a working washing machine. You have the luxury of working from home and making your own schedule. At least you had your coffee, right?

That chirpy friend (who is non-existent and probably just a fragment of my personality) is correct. I am very blessed. And most of the time I’m grateful for every little thing.

Not today, though, my friends.

I’m not going to pretend I had a 180 in attitude from morning to now. I didn’t. I’m also not going to spout off about what a great day it was and how much I got done. Admittedly, I did get a lot done. But it was the core stuff, the behind-the-scenes stuff, the not-fun-stuff that allows me to spend the rest of my time working on things that DO satisfy me.

I guess those unsatisfying days lead to the satisfying ones. Maybe they make them sweeter. Who knows?

I’m off for another cup of coffee…

Do you have unsatisfying days? How do you deal with them?

Enjoy your week!

The Temptation to Over-Simplify Secondary Characters

The temptation to over-simplify secondary characters by Jill Kemerer

The temptation to over-simplify secondary characters, especially bad guys, hits me every time I write a first draft. Since my books are short, I don’t have much space to devote to sub-plots, and some of the characters are off-camera anyway.

These bad-guy characters are typically exes—ex-boyfriends, ex-wives, ex-in-laws. You know, the people who shaped the main characters’ internal conflicts. The reader needs to know how they affected the characters, and it’s easy to make them caricatures.

Another reason I tend to draft caricatures is because the reader doesn’t get to experience their point of view in my books. I’m only giving the main character’s impression of them, and let’s face, it a one-sided impression tends to be skewed. For instance, the current book I’m writing features a woman whose husband not only demanded a divorce when she told him she was pregnant, but he also wants nothing to do with their unborn child.

He’s not a villain in the sense that he’s stalking her or trying to kill her, but he’s a villain nonetheless.

The problem? Readers don’t want one-dimensional characters, even if he is the jerky ex-husband who is off-page the entire book.

Even if my readers give me a pass, I don’t want to write caricatures. It’s lazy. And it doesn’t reflect reality.

No one is all bad. No one is all good.

Yes…some people are ethically challenged. Other people have very real mental health problems that causes them to make poor decisions. There are also people who live their lives selfishly, not thinking about how their actions affect those around them, and not taking responsibility for it either.

So, there’s the dilemma. How can we write the “bad guy” without making him a caricature? How can we make her a real person, with motivations we might not agree with but we at least understand? And how can we humanize them enough so the reader isn’t taken out of the story wondering, would anyone really act like that?

I’ll be honest with you–there have been times I’ve failed at this. As much as I try to produce multi-dimensional characters, sometimes the cookie-cutter ex shows up.

How to combat over-simplifying secondary characters?

When I have a character (usually from the past who doesn’t play an active role in the book) who caused my heroine or hero a lot of pain, I come up with reasons why this person would behave that way. Jealousy, greed, narcissism, desperation, chemical imbalance, addictions–all of these can bring out the dark side in people.

When I have an idea why the “bad guy” was so awful, I then try to incorporate this into the main character’s thoughts 0r even a conversation with someone they trust so the reader gets a better understanding, too.

Going back to my current heroine…she’s long suspected her ex-husband had a personality disorder of some sort. This is confirmed later in the story. Their entire relationship was basically long-distance. They only saw each other a few weekends per month because of his job. These details help the reader understand why the heroine would have married this guy in the first place and gives credence as to why he wants nothing to do with their child.

He’s not an endearing character. His actions affect my heroine. But he’s not evil or just bad to be bad. He has problems, and since he’s chosen to cut himself out of the heroine’s life, there’s not much she can do about it.

If the secondary character plays an active role in the book–say the ex-husband is showing up at her house or she has to work with him and he’s lying about her–I would spend even more time weaving in reasons and motivations for the reader to understand why he’s acting like a jerk. Readers can handle a “bad guy” in the book. They will find him or her more believable if they understand why he or she is acting that way.

Readers don’t have to like every character. The book might be boring if they did! But they do need to understand each character.

The temptation to over-simplify secondary characters is basically telling not showing. Hate this ex-husband because he’s a lying, cheating jerk who doesn’t want the baby!

If that’s all his character is reduce to, it makes me wonder why she married him in the first place? He must have had some redeeming quality, right?

When I’m revising, I actively search for ways to make secondary characters more believable. If the character is a bad guy, I try to either make him or her a little less villainous or weave in more reasons for why they act the way they do.

How do you handle secondary characters who are bad guys? Do you have any tips on making them more believable? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

On a side note, I’m linking an OLD blog post I wrote back in 2014, “Strengthening Weak Areas in Your Writing.” I’m still finding lots of weak areas to strengthen!

Have a great day!

Basic Story Structure: 5 Plot Points

Basic Story Structure: 5 Plot Points by Jill Kemerer

If you’re like me, you probably have twenty-plus books on the writing craft hanging around. They’re on my office shelf. Stacked on my desk. Lingering under my nightstand in my bedroom. I can’t seem to get enough books on writing!

Not only do I keep buying books (which is part of my personal continuous education plan), I review old ones periodically to refresh my skills. One of the topics I return to again and again is key plot points.

Since I’m a novelist, creating a cohesive plot is very important to me. What’s more, I write commercial fiction. Readers of commercial fiction have clear expectations for story, specifically what makes it good and what makes it compelling.

Writers don’t always know how to translate the idea in our head to the page in a cohesive way. That’s why understanding basic plot points can be so helpful for plotters (writers who plan the story out before writing) and pantsers (writers who pour the story out as it comes to them).

What I’m sharing today is my personal bare-bones, essential 5 plot points. These were derived from various plotting methods (I’ve included links at the end of the post).

One nice perk of knowing this basic story structure is that the 5 plot points make a simple synopsis. Expand on them for a more detailed synopsis.

You might have a different take on key plot points. That’s fine. Whatever works for you! This works for me.

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Blog Posts I Recently Enjoyed Reading

Blog Posts I Recently Enjoyed about Staying Focused

To stay with January’s productivity/time management theme, I’m sharing links to a few blog posts I recently read.

The first one was a guest post by Tamera Alexander over at Seekerville–“10 Writing Tips for Staying Focused & Finishing Your Book.”

Here’s an excerpt:

1. Disconnect…and be disciplined about it—

So easy to say, so hard to do.

In my early years of writing there weren’t as many distractions as there are today—yes, we did already have cell phones and email (I wrote my first novel in 2002, not the dark ages!)—but phones and email and social media weren’t the “great commanders of time” as they seem to be now. The number of ways to communicate has increased exponentially since then. Which, in turn, has contributed to our lack of concentration and ability to focus.

Now there’s Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, blogs and the list goes on and on. An author could easily spend the majority of her time doing social media, staying connected with readers (which is an absolute blast!), and sorting the rest of “life stuff” that always crops up—and never write. Or at least never finish that novel.

The best—the only—way I’ve found that works for me is to turn it off. Literally.

There’s much more to it, and it’s worth the entire read. You can find the rest of the post HERE.

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Bite-Size Sessions for Lower Priority Projects

Bite-Size Sessions for Lower Priority Projects by Jill Kemerer

This month I’m sharing tips based on my experience with setting and meeting goals. I’ll be the first to admit I’m self-motivated and disciplined. However, I have blind spots about habits that don’t always work well for me.

Three years ago, I got serious about reworking my schedule to address those habits. You can read about it in “Get More Done with a Plan.” The schedule worked really well until the pandemic hit.

Then…things fell apart.

I slipped into my old habits. Yeah, I still met my deadlines, but I was no longer making time for the lower-priority projects. When I don’t make time for them, they NEVER get done. Because there’s always another high-priority project to jump the line.

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How the Week is Going

How the week is going (and book trailer!) Jill Kemerer

Well, it’s Monday as I write this, and I already feel overwhelmed. My grocery order had some surprises I hadn’t anticipated. The fruit flies are out in force, and spiders are making their way into my home because they know winter is coming. I hate spiders.

When I look at my planner for this week, I swallow and it’s more like a gulp.

A tight knot is growing between my shoulders. That’s how the week is going.

On the to-do list:

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Every Word Written is a Small Success

Every Word Written is a Small Success. Writing Tips. Jill Kemerer

When you’re in the middle of writing a book, it’s easy to get discouraged. You might not be sure what’s supposed to happen next. You certainly can’t remember what happened two chapters ago. The main characters you thought you knew so well seem wobbly, like you don’t know them at all.

This is when it gets tempting to avoid writing.

When everything inside you is screaming to do ANYTHING but write (hello, laundry! Why, yes, I need to scrub my stovetop right this minute…), extinguish those screams.

Sit down.

Write something.

Anything. Even if it’s ten words. Five.

Every word written is a small success.

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