Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Five ways to complete your novel

With NaNoWriMo a little more than a month away, I thought I'd share some of the tips that helped me finish my books.

1. Outline

After starting out as a never-outliner, I slowly migrated to the outline crowd. After seeing how much it helped with my most recent book, I was finally sold on the idea.

First, I write a short summary of what I want to happen in the book. Then I write out a detailed outline, chapter by chapter, of important scenes and character developments.

For my current project, I also have a chart of all characters' names, descriptions, and motivations.

I use a Word document to outline, but other writers also use spreadsheets or dedicated writing software.

2. Connect with other writers

Writing groups are important because writing can be a lonely process. I love reading the #amwriting hashtag on Twitter, but there are ways to connect on every social media site. It's helpful to hear advice from more experienced writers, and you may find betas (people willing to read and provide feedback on your work) this way.

If you can manage it, joining a writing group in person (through a school, library, or bookstore) is also a great way to share feedback and encouragement.

3. Make it a habit

Setting a schedule to write consistently (as much as possible) is important. Every day off is dangerous because you can take another ... and another ... so what's one more, or a hundred? Taking too much time off can make it harder to come back and focus on the project.

Some people set a certain time to write, or block off their weekends. Whatever works for you, do it. 

4. Use a "sandbox"

For a long time I thought I was the only person who did this, but other writers say they've done it as well. When you're writing a rough draft, your focus should be getting everything down on paper. But as you revise, what do you do with scenes you don't need (or aren't sure you need)? 

I move out-of-place scenes or descriptions to another document that I call the book's "sandbox." That way, if I decide later that I really do want to use the scene, it's still there.

5. Reward your progress

Tweet about it, blog about it, share it with your friends and family - whatever you do, when you finish (or just finish a really great chapter), share the news. 

You also might want to reward yourself with a break from writing when you hit your word count, or think of other rewards that will encourage you to keep going. 

Similar posts:
Book Review: L'art de la Simplicite: Living More With Less
On the Shelf: Book Riot's 2017 Challenge
Writing Challenges and Time Management

Friday, August 18, 2017

Book Review: Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things

Photo by Ashim D’Silva on Unsplash

I picked up Stuff, by by Gail Steketee and Randy O. Frost, after reading an article about hoarding. The book explores the lives of several people who hoard--some who manage to recover, others who never accept help.

The book explains that hoarding may involve a disorder of processing information. People who hoard might look at a pile of papers, get overwhelmed by information, and become unable to throw anything away. 

I was surprised to learn that many hoarders are extremely intelligent. Some have hoarded their entire lives; for others, a traumatic event brings on their hoarding. I don't recall learning about hoarding in any of my psychiatry classes, but it can be treated with therapy.

This book was published in 2010, but still feels relevant. I'd recommend it to anyone who works in public health or psychiatry, or who knows someone who hoards. 

Alternately, if you need motivation to clean, reading this book will do the trick. After I read it, I donated two bags of clothes and cleaned our entire house in an afternoon. 

Some notes I took when reading the book:


- identified by excessive acquiring of items and inability to get rid of them

- often makes homes uninhabitable and can affect relationships

- people may hoard may not allow people inside to repair their homes or provide services

- adversely affects quality of life

Who are hoarders?

- extremely intelligent, often have college degrees

- may have difficulty processing information, anxiety, or obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) 

- often have family members who hoard

- often do not realize the scope of the problem

Signs of hoarding

- exits blocked

- narrow pathways among clutter

- bathrooms or beds unusable

- a large number of pets that are ill or living in unsanitary conditions

- insects such as cockroaches

Why people hoard

- may have experienced a traumatic event

- many begin to hoard after the death of a spouse, parent or caregiver

- a family member may have helped them clean, but after they died, the home spiraled out of control

How to help

- similar to addiction, people must understand there is a problem and accept help

- may be best to focus on quality of life, ex: make exits accessible, remove flammable objects from near stoves, make necessary repairs

Similar posts:

Book Review: L'art de la Simplicite: Living More With Less

On the Shelf: Book Riot's 2017 Challenge

Saturday, July 15, 2017

How do you manage your book collection?

I have accumulated a lot of books over the years. I do read a lot of e-books, and I borrow books from libraries. However, sometimes I end up buying a book if it's not available in one of those categories. I like to keep nonfiction to refer to them, make notes, and bookmark pages. And cookbooks are much easier to read and use in print form.

A lot of my books are old textbooks from school. I've taken a lot of classes over the years, and sometimes (due to a new edition) the books are not worth anything when I'm done. Some I kept as a reference, though they get outdated quickly.

Ideally, I'd keep them all forever. But sometimes I know that I'm not going to read certain books again or they have no sentimental value, so I remove them from my collection. After all, I'm going to move someday, and books are heavy.

How do you get rid of old books you don't need anymore? Fiction that's still in good condition can go to charity, usually either a library book sale or a thrift store. Really outdated books, or books in bad condition, can be recycled. Bookscouter is also a good way to find sites that buy back textbooks.

And as for the remaining collection? I have a huge bookshelf to display my books. I try to group them by subject--fiction, cookbooks, textbooks, etc.--but more often I tend to group them by size, just so they fit on the shelf.

If you have any tips for managing a book collection, please leave them in the comments.

Similar posts:
Book Review: L'art de la Simplicite: Living More With Less
On the Shelf: Book Riot's 2017 Challenge
Writing Challenges and Time Management

Monday, July 10, 2017

Saturnine sale

In the spirit of Prime Day, I'm putting Saturnine on sale. The thriller/sci-fi ebook will be 99 cents for a limited time on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords. (It should be available on Kobo and Apple soon.)


"They don't want her. They want me."

Thomas Huxley is an agent in the twenty-sixth century. When his agency is breached and his identity revealed, his wife, Zoe, is kidnapped.

His friend Ariel, a time traveler, knows that the kidnappers are working with an old enemy of hers, Bailey Tyler. If they can unravel Bailey's plans and stop her, they might have a chance to rescue Zoe. 

But the kidnappers are killing agents, one by one, and Thomas's name is on their list...

If you want to be notified of future releases or sales, be sure to like my Facebook page or sign up for my newsletter.

Saturday, July 01, 2017

Book Review: L'art de la Simplicite: Living More With Less by Dominique Loreau

As part of my Book Riot challenge, I've been trying to read more nonfiction. My life has been complicated, so I chose a book about simplicity: L'art de la Simplicite: Living More With Less by Dominique Loreau. I read the English translation, and it was originally published in French.

This slim volume packs a lot of wisdom into the first few chapters. It's one part declutter movement and one part minimalism. A lot of the tips seem to be aimed at women. One tip is: don't carry a handbag that weighs more than three pounds when full. It sounds simple, but if you're like me, you probably haul around a lot more stuff than you think you need. The author also boldly states that if you carry a handbag, you shouldn't need a wallet; the pocket(s) in the bag should suffice. As someone who has owned a wallet since I knew what money was, that was surprising (and liberating). 

The first few chapters give a zen-like outlook on life, but the second part of the book didn't resonate with me as much. A lot of the advice, such as eating less and reducing clutter, is good, but other tips (such as only buying fresh food and never canned, and not eating leftovers) are more strict. Most people can't make such a drastic lifestyle change, due to time, money, or other obstacles. The book also doesn't provide very good advice on health, and at one point discourages therapy, which is necessary for many people.

I'd still recommend reading the first part of the book, and have re-read parts of it because it is so light and optimistic. I'd have liked the parts on minimalism and decluttering to be a little longer, but then again, simplicity is short. 

Friday, June 23, 2017

My thredUP review (Updated)

Awhile back, thredUP asked their customers to write a review of their site. And because I'm so conscientious, I wrote one ... within six months. They didn't offer compensation, but just asked customers to spread the word. ThredUP.com allows you to buy and sell secondhand clothes (and some accessories) online. Right now it only has clothes for women and kids; apparently it hasn't been cost-effective to sell men's clothes.

I like to go to thrift shops -- they're better for the environment, and have low prices -- but I find it overwhelming to try to find brands and styles I'll like. ThredUP does make searching for clothes easier for me. Their prices are reasonable, and I can sort by brand, size, color, etc. They frequently have 10% off coupon codes as well.

The clothes arrive in a cute cardboard box wrapped in tissue paper. There's no plastic bags, unlike other stores, so everything is recyclable. You have 14 days to return items if you don't like them. I've been seeing a lot of items that are "final sale," though, which sometimes makes me skip them.

The clothes have always been as described, but they used to arrive with a floral scent that took a few washes to get out. The latest box didn't, and the scent hasn't stopped me from buying.

So, that's buying. Sending clothes to them -- and potentially getting money for your clothes -- is easy. You request a bag, and it arrives in the mail a few days later. Then you pack it with clothes, wait in line at the post office (or schedule a USPS pickup) and mail it off. They subtract $6.99 from the payout (was $4.99 or so when I tried it) to cover shipping costs, or you can opt to have the proceeds donated to charity. I picked clothes that were in good condition but not a good fit for me: too big or too small, or the wrong style.

Is it worth it to send stuff to thredUP over a charity? I'm not sure. I sent them a bag, but it will still be a few weeks before I find out my payout. If you have expensive clothes, you might want to try selling them on your own first. And it may be more eco-friendly to give them to a charity shop in your area.

Fast fashion has created a trend where clothes are bought and discarded quickly. Hopefully secondhand shops (both online and brick and mortar) can temper that a bit. Any thoughts?

Update 8/12/17: I've read that thredUP is no longer sending out clean-out bags. It shows up as available in my account, so this is likely dependent on location. I also discovered that the site is heavily impacted by where you live--they will only show you the items in the warehouse closest to you.

The bag I sent to them was processed after around 6 weeks. Most of the clothes were either in new or like-new condition. My payout was $2, which I was sort of expecting after reading their usual payout amounts. But I was surprised that clothes I thought wouldn't be accepted--such as Old Navy and Champion--were the ones they took. I wouldn't send more expensive items, and for that payout, it's easier to just have charities pick up my clothes. For that reason, I'm not recommending the clean-out bags.

I also sent a return a week ago, and it hasn't been acknowledged yet, either by e-mail or on the site. I had to check the package tracking number to make sure I didn't stick the wrong label on the box. It will be delivered to the return center on Thursday--so four more business days. (And the return was for store credit, not a refund.) For comparison, I shipped out an item to another company on the same day, and have already received my payment.

I have been able to find some unique items at thredUP, and I was happy with them in the past, but I'm going to wait a little while before I make my next purchase. 

Saturday, April 15, 2017

April Check-In

Spring is finally upon us, and I started working in my garden.

A post shared by Laura E. Bradford (@lauraebradford) on

I have been wondering if I should release Saturnine in print, but there hasn't been that much demand so I'll wait a bit on that. I suppose I should actually do some marketing first.

I have some notes for a third Flyday book, but as I said, I'm not sure there's much demand for it. I've got an outline and a few chapters of a YA novel written, so I'll try to keep working on that.

I haven't been on posting Twitter as much lately, but if you send me a message I'll get it. Happy spring!