Spending time wisely is only one part of managing it. The other part is finding ways to save time, especially on things you don’t like doing as much as other things.

To do this, you have to make a conscious effort to think about everything you do during each day.

One of my favorite books growing up was “Cheaper By the Dozen” by Frank B. Gilbreth and Ernest Gilbreth Carey about an efficiency expert and how he got things done in his household with a wife and a dozen kids. He timed their showers, he lined them up to do things, he taught them how to do everything faster with less motion.

That book lead me to a life-time interest in time management, efficiency, and personal organization.

We can learn how to increase efficiency in our own lives if we pay attention to what we’re doing. This can work for everything from brushing our teeth and setting the table, to painting a room and arranging the room for a better traffic flow. The more you dislike something that has to be done, the more you should work on how to get it done in the fastest way possible. 

This involves things like putting stuff you use all the time in convenient places, and putting stuff you use together in close proximity. In other words, the stapler goes in your home office, not in the bedroom. The utensils you use for cooking and baking go next to the stove, not in the pantry. I recommend that for one day you pay particular attention to all your actions and how you move around in your space. Where can you cut down on wasted time?

Routines are also helpful when you want to get things done quickly. Same time of day, same thought-out actions lead to a more productive life. As a bonus, they also lead to a more relaxed life. What could be better than that?


The current advice to is avoid using “he said/she said” and instead show the characters doing something. There is also a similar tendency for some authors to write too many of the details of, for example, the character getting from Point A to Point B.

Details can add texture to our writing, for sure. But let’s not allow them to get in the way of the story.

Sometimes, a simple “he said” is perfect. Because if you put in instead, “Tom shrugged,” you add a bland action and interrupt the dialogue for no good reason. Unless you describe him thus:

Cool Dapper Shruggy Smiley by Viscious-Speed -

If you put in, “Stella shook her golden hair and some fell over her right eye. She brushed it aside,” you’ve really interrupted the dialogue. The only possible reason for this is to show Stella has blonde hair, if it hasn’t already come up. And of course, to avoid using “she said.”

Nothing irritates me more than not knowing who the speaker is in a section of dialogue. It used to be said (!) that “he said/she said” was invisible to the reader—it helped the reader keep track of whom was speaking, but it didn’t get in the way. Lately, however, that is not the advice being given. Instead, we’re told to put in those “small” actions to indicate who’s speaking.  And some authors do that so consistently, I want to stop reading.

Another reason given to not use “he said/she said” is to show what the character is feeling or thinking. This is sometimes a good idea, but it can also be overdone. What the reader already knows about the character will give him a clue as to what the speaker feels or thinks. Or the words in the dialogue alone can convey the emotion. In other words, as the story progresses, the reader should know how the protag and several of her friends, relatives and enemies think and how they feel. No need to “show” us those reactions on every page and during every chunk of dialogue.

The other, similar problem, which fortunately is still frowned upon, is putting in too much detail when a character goes from one place to another. We’re given a laundry list (what is a laundry list, anyway?  I know what a grocery list is, but a laundry list must be something done by our great-grandparents)—we’re given a list of street names, right and left turns, type of roadway, shifting gears, and pushing hard on the gas pedal or the brake. Give me a break! Or we spend time with the character actually getting in and out of a car, what kind of car it is, the color of the upholstery, and so on. Is any of this important to the story? That’s the ultimate test. If it’s not important, no matter how interesting to the author, cut it out!

And that should be the final test for any detail inserted anyplace in your story. Does it make the story better? Is it important to the story? It is interesting enough in itself to leave it in? If none of these apply, get rid of it. Your readers will thank you. This reader in particular will salute you.


New account. Went to set it up in my newest version of Quicken. Wouldn’t let me do it on my computer, wanted me to give my bank information so Quicken and my bank could talk to each other and input the info automatically. Sounds great, for anything except financial stuff. It’s bad enough all that info is already out there on my bank’s website. Now it should be on, let’s face it, another corporation’s website? And won’t it be harder to find incorrect transactions if the bank inputs the info in my Quicken?

Yes, I know so far nothing has happened to compromise anyone’s money. The key words being “so far.” I have a rather active imagination—usually a good thing for a writer. Maybe I’m over-thinking this, but maybe not. Better safe than sorry, no?

I’ve been using Quicken for about fifteen (yes, 15!) years now. Twice in all those years, I found a bank error. Both times for the same monthly transaction where they read my 0 for a 5, weirdly enough. Fifty cents each time. That was years and years ago. Every month I faithfully reconcile my balance and spend a lot of time inputting the info into Quicken. Every month, everything is okay.

So, do I trust the bank, or do I let another entity have my financial info, too? How much time will I save if I just check on-line, say once a week, to see if anything looks really off? Or even just check the amounts against receipts—shouldn’t take too long. Can keep the receipts, which I already do, anyway.

I love being efficient. In the beginning, I loved Quicken because it did the math for me. But the bank also does the math for us. How much time can I save by making this change? How much anxiety will I produce in myself if I do? How much of a control freak am I, anyway? Time will tell.

Not to get too personal, but what do the rest of you do about keeping track of your finances? I figure I can do a quick and dirty spread sheet for certain items if I want to keep track of how much we’re spending on, say, gas or groceries. But most bills are the same or close to the same every month. A glance will tell if they’re off. I think I’m going to go for it.


Even some famous novelists will tell you they have trouble writing short stories, and some say they cannot write them at all.

Since I have a much easier time writing short stories than novels, I decided to try to figure out why that’s so. Or at least how you can do it yourself.

It may be obvious, but if you’re a novelist, you’re thinking on a grand scale. You fill your story with characters and subplots. And even settings.

For shorts, you need to hone in on probably one or two characters, one problem/plot point, only a setting or two, and forget about subplots.

Timeframe is also different. Most likely, a short story takes place in a short amount of time. You don’t usually wrap up your main character’s whole life in the story. Instead, you use a fascinating incident to point up your protagonist’s good and bad points. Give her a problem to solve, an interesting setting, another character or two to talk to and you’re good to go.

Often mystery writers say they have a problem writing a puzzle mystery in the short form. I agree this is very hard to do, so I rarely write that type of story. You need at least three clues and a red herring or two. You need three or four suspects. And a villain, plus the protagonist. The setting is often important in a puzzle mystery. It can be done, has been done, but it’s very difficult.

I’ve only written a couple of short story puzzle mysteries. Instead I write what are called crime stories. These are stories that, obviously, have crimes in them, but are not necessarily traditional mysteries. The reader may know right from the beginning who did it. There may not be anyone even interested in solving the crime. Other things are going on in the story.

If you want to write short crime stories, I suggest you find several of your favorites and deconstruct them to find out why they appeal to you. With the bones of your favorite, make up your own characters and settings and see what you come up with. You may surprise yourself. If you try this, please come back and let me know how it went. And of course, who published it. Think positive!


Most of us have things that we just don’t like to do for one reason or another. Depending on what those things are, we can blow them off most of the time (is it absolutely necessary for you to write a holiday newsletter every year?) or we absolutely have to do them (sorry, the kitchen has to be cleaned on a regular basis).

And it may be that you can blow it off, but you’re really rather do whatever-it-is because it will move your most-favored goals forward. Your most-favored goals are those that you have at the top of your goal list. You have a goal list, right? And you have put it in order of priority. If not, stop a few minutes and do that, now.

What has been proven the best way to move your most-favored goals ahead? Do whatever-it-is first. At the start of your day. Your resistance is lower then, but your motivation is highest. This is when you have the most optimism for getting things done. And once you do this a few times, you’ll realize that it makes the rest of your day so much better. You can pat yourself on the back for getting that chore out of the way and over with.

This is a particularly important thing to do when it involves your most important goals in life. That’s why so many people who exercise regularly (even those who don’t particularly enjoy exercising) do it first thing in the morning. This is why so many creative people get up before the rest of their family to create their art. This is how the best businesspeople get the best results. And this is how many great housekeepers keep the house spotless—tackle that dirty oven or cluttered, needs-cleaning refrigerator first thing.

Try it for three weeks (the time it usually takes to form a new habit) and see if it works for you.


Editing is on my mind right now because I’m, well, editing. A whole novel, actually.

First I wrote the thing. I had a wonderful critique partner who helped me tremendously along the way. After I keyed, “The End,” I went back to the beginning and worked through it several times. Next I paid a professional editor, and she worked through it, making mostly minor grammar fixes and asking a couple of questions about the story itself which I will work on. And now, I’m fixing the minor stuff, then will fix the more major items, and then I’ll get it uploaded to Amazon for Kindle and print editions.

How long did this (starting with writing the whole novel, then completing the edits, getting a cover made, formatting and uploading) all take? A couple of years. How long should it have taken? About six months total, I think. Life got in the way. Life often does. We moved into a house—that was a huge undertaking, of course. We had to buy a houseful of furniture. We had to get the motorhome we’d been living in cleaned out and cleaned up, ready to sell. I was working on getting the short story collection, WARNING SIGNS, and another novel, REVELATIONS, published. We went on two trips. I got involved fixing up the family tree for my son. And so on.

I have three more novels to go plus several short story collections to do before my private backlist is published. In there somewhere I need to write a whole new novel because it looks as if I’m going to end up with three different series. One dark, one medium, and one light.

I think if I pushed myself, I could get a novel done in four to six months. That’s my time. But I have to depend on other people, too—the editors, cover designer, and if I end hiring one, a formatter.  So, although us “indy” authors like to think we are totally independent, we still rely on other people. The difference is that we do have more control about who we hire, and after the work is done, when it gets published.

Ideally, my days would look like this: One thousand words done first thing in the morning. Then some networking and marketing for about an hour. In the evening, one hour of editing, probably about thirty pages an hour if I don’t run into anything drastic. This would be on a different project. Then one more hour of networking and marketing. Should be doable. If life doesn’t get in the way once again, as it is wont to do.


Today I decided to talk about packing for a trip. Trips are fun, right, but packing, not so much. Since we just returned a while ago from a three-week road trip in a car (after spending eleven years traveling fulltime by motorhome), the memory of packing and “living out of a suitcase” is still fresh.

Dear Husband does not like to lug a lot of items into and back out of rooms every stop, so I tried to think of a way to make it easier on him. It’s not so bad when you stay in a motel/hotel room for several days, but when you have to take a lot of things out of the car, into the motel, and back into the car the very next morning, hauling a bunch of stuff is a pain, especially if you have an inside room, have to use an elevator, and so forth.

Two things stand out in my mind: less is more, and Ziploc bags are your friends.

What we did was have two suitcases, one medium, one large; and two laundry bags, one large, one small (actually a medium-size tote). The large suitcase held extra underwear, hangers as they were used (we hung up our clothes on a rod across the back of the car), and other miscellaneous stuff (shoes, for example) that we didn’t need every night. Once in awhile we would re-stock our smaller suitcase from the large one. And instead of lugging the large laundry bag in and out as it got heavier and heavier, we simply used the tote and transferred the dirty clothes into the large bag every time we headed out again.

So, these are the things we ended up carrying into a room each time:

  • One medium-sized suitcase with laundry tote inside.
  • One very small cooler (holds six cans, and we stocked it every morning with ice and drinks for the road from a stash in the back of the car).
  • Hanging clothes, as needed.
  • My purse and a tiny tote with miscellaneous things like peanut-butter cracker packs, a visor, brochures, etc.
  • Two laptop computers, one in a large briefcase-type carrier where everything with a cord or that was electronic lived (chargers, for example). Reading material and my Kindle also fit in the case.
  • Another tote with all my hair care items—dryer, curler, wire brush, products (in Ziploc bags).

One place we stayed for just over a week. For that, we lugged up the big suitcase, too, a lot more hanging clothes, and a bed reading pillow for me.

If we were flying, clothes would have to be packed instead of hung on the rod, of course, and the stuff in the hair care tote, too. But we had plenty of room left in the larger suitcase to do that. We wouldn’t be taking the reading pillow or the cooler.

We each had a special carrier for personal items that could be zipped up and placed in the small suitcase. Ziploc bags were used to hold miscellaneous items—for example, extra washcloths, anything that might leak like shampoo, body wash, etc. Easy to see what’s inside and extra insurance against leaks.

And that was it. What more did we need? Nothing. We didn’t have to buy anything while gone. I, of course, worked from a list that’s been refined over the years and is kept on my laptop to print out each time.  The list includes everything we need to do before we shut up the house—turn off the water, unplug appliances, turn off the fountain in the back yard, and so on.

I still don’t like to pack, but at least having a system is reassuring and a lot quicker than just doing it on the fly. Anyone have some other good tricks for packing for a trip? Please share.


Once you get into some good habits, it’s pretty easy to write a novel. First, sit down around the same time every day and write. Most people find the best time is very soon after they get up in the morning. But if you’re a night owl, pick a time you know will work best for you.

Sit there until you write something. Tell yourself you cannot do anything else until you’ve written something to move your story forward. If you feel stuck, ask yourself what could happen next, letting your imagination loose with everything wild and crazy you can think of. Make a list, make your choice, and continue.

Decide on a certain word count for each day. Not a time period because you can fritter that time away. If you work toward a word count, you’re apt to finish the novel sooner. Not only that, but you’ll be able to figure out about how long it will take you to complete the first draft. Six days a week, one thousand words for a novel of about 84,000 words will then take you fourteen weeks. Three and a half months. Not bad, is it?

Along the way you may have had others look at chapters. If you have time, you can go through their critique notes and make changes, but don’t use your writing time for this. The trick is to get through that first draft.

Do not spend your writing time editing until the first draft is finished. Just plow through it. When done, take a week off from that project, then go back to edit it.

There are all kinds of ways to do edits. I suggest you go on-line and read articles and blogs about different processes and pick the one (refining it for your needs) you think will work best for you. The first two or three times it’s going to be really tough. But the more you do, the more you’ll find ways to help you go through each pass quicker. Keep notes about what works and what doesn’t for next time.

After you’ve done all you can think of to do to make your novel the best it can be, it’s time to get a professional editor to go over it for you. I recommend you do this before trying to submit it to agents. And absolutely do this if you’re going to self-publish. You want people to love your story, not complain about typos, misspellings and grammar mistakes. These errors will totally distract many readers from your prose. And some of them will mention that in reviews on Amazon, Goodreads and other places.

Good luck! If you try this, come back later and tell me how you did. I love comments.


How do you see your life? As a journey? A story. A dream?

If you could write the story of your life, how would you like it to be? Imagine your perfect day. What happens when you get up in the morning? Are you happy to be alive? I hope so! Do you have something fabulous to look forward to? A great breakfast, or a brisk walk  in the sunshine, talking to your loved ones, or even—work!? Again, I hope so.

Maybe your life isn’t as pleasant as you’d like because you haven’t really thought about how you want it to be. If that’s true, here are some ideas to make it better.

  • First, write down a few things on separate pieces of paper (that handy small legal pad is ideal for this) you’d like to do in the near future. Maybe there’s a hobby you’d like to pursue. Or you want to lose a few pounds. Or you want a new job. Maybe you’d like to adopt a pet.
  • Under each desire, list the steps you’d have to take to get what you want and the cost in time and money.
  • Next order the steps they need to be taken in.

Then GO! Start with Step 1 as soon as you can. Today, hopefully.And when you get ready for bed each night, are you happy with how your day went? What could you do to make it better tomorrow? This is called an examined life.  A lot better than an unexamined life!