Where I Got Published Today: Lifehacker

How to Manage Game Day Anxiety

Whether you’re playing a sport, preparing a speech, or getting ready to sing in front of an audience, it’s nearly impossible to control the pre-game jitters.

That’s fine. In fact, it’s expected.

Where to Shop This Memorial Day Weekend

If I were planning a big shopping trip this Memorial Day weekend, I’d be most interested in the Tempur-Sealy Memorial Day Sale, where you can save up to $700 on select mattress sets. I don’t need a new mattress at the moment, but I love my Tempur-Pedic Tempur-Cloud pillow—and if you have a different favorite mattress brand, one that doesn’t include “pressure-relieving material originally developed by NASA to absorb the G-Forces of astronauts traveling to space,” it’s probably offering a few hundred bucks off its mattresses too.

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Where I Got Published Today: Lifehacker

Don’t Let Boredom Get in the Way of Your Goals

We all know how exciting it is to start a new habit. Today we’re going to be the type of person who wakes up early! Packs their lunch before work! Goes to the gym!

We also know how exciting it is to experience something that pulls us away from the daily grind. Today, we get to sleep in! A coworker suggested we try the new pizza place! The weather’s too nasty to make it to the gym, so we get to stay home and watch Netflix instead!

There’s nothing wrong with skipping the gym now and then, of course. (Rest days are just as important as workout days.) However, when your habits are in that tricky stage where they’re no longer new but not quite routine, it’s crucial that you stick to them.

On Making Sure Your Story Answers Its Own Questions

I got stuck again with NEXT BOOK—which seems to be happening every week-to-two-weeks, now that I’m in the part of the story where I have to put all the pieces together, balance and resolve the tensions, and get everyone to the end.

Then I read a Time Magazine article about the end of Game of Thrones that included this quote:

A happy ending isn’t the same thing as an ending satisfying enough to keep you up at night, thinking about how the show’s elemental questions were resolved (see: Six Feet UnderMad Men and, just this week, Fleabag).

This made me ask myself what elemental questions were at the core of NEXT BOOK. I’d always known it would be a story about “stuckness vs. possibility,” as well as “what would happen if an adult with responsibilities found herself in the middle of a portal fantasy,” but as I’d been writing the draft, I’d also realized that this was a book about family, and that many of the questions re: stuckness and possibility were tied up in my protagonist’s experience with her extended family.

So I decided to do this exercise I learned in theater school, where I break down every “scene” by what the protagonist wants, what the protagonist does to get what they want, what the other characters do that gets in the way, and how that reaction changes what the protagonist wants.

I mean, the big thing the protagonist wants generally stays constant throughout the whole act (that’d be the superobjective) but the thing the protagonist wants in each scene (the objective) is generally different.

With that in mind, here’s how I broke down the first big chunk of NEXT BOOK. Spoilers ahead, but not too many:

Because Ellen feels stuck in a caregiving role, she wants to find ways of separating from her extended family and its responsibilities/routines.

She tries doing a Solstice ritual to celebrate her own winter holiday and bring magic into her life

But the ritual doesn’t make her feel better.

Ellen assumes she will be tied to her family forever.

***

Because Ellen assumes she will be tied to her family forever, Ellen wants to connect with her family.

She tries inviting her sister to tour the Banner House holiday decorations

But Grace (who is newly pregnant and not feeling well) stays in the car.

Ellen takes the tour by herself and connects with Robin instead.

***

Because Ellen has connected with Robin, Ellen wants to learn more about Robin.

She tries asking her grandmother, her friends, and the Banner House staff

But they do not give her answers.

Ellen decides to return to the Banner House and find Robin herself.

***

Because Ellen finds Robin herself, Ellen wants Robin to be as interested in her as she is in him.

She tries flirting and following Robin upstairs

But then he asks her to follow him into his world, which is something she is not ready to do.

Ellen goes back to her unsatisfying life and its responsibilities.

***

Because Ellen is unsatisfied with her life, she wants to know whether Robin’s story is true.

She tries asking her grandmother why she always claimed to have been brought home through a fairy door,

But learns that the family story was put in place to hide Grandma Trudy’s true parentage.

Ellen is angry that it’s all about family again.

***

Because Ellen is angry, she wants to be alone.

She tries going for a bike ride

But Robin finds her and asks her to follow him again.

Ellen says she will think about it and arranges to meet Robin later.

***

Because Ellen said she will think about it, she wants to get a few more questions answered.

She tries asking Robin for details about his world

And he provides them.

Then she asks for a favor and he agrees.

Since Ellen has what she wants, and since Robin has shown that he will care for her needs, she is ready to ask herself how to separate from her family and move forward.

So. Writing this out showed me where my scenes didn’t match up with what was in my draft—that is, the “because this, then that” is either unclear or nonexistent. In other words: as I was writing this, I was making notes to myself like “we need another conversation between Ellen and her friends HERE,” or “we need to make it clear that the reason Ellen accepts Robin’s invitation is because he is providing care to her, which nobody else in her life is doing at the moment.”

Writing this out also showed me that some of my scenes might not follow each other super-logically. Does Ellen start asking herself whether there could really be a portal to another world because she is unsatisfied with her life, or because SHE JUST DISCOVERED THERE MIGHT BE A PORTAL TO ANOTHER WORLD? Is there ever a moment where a person who made that discovery would legitimately say “sorry, gotta go back to my everyday life and not think about this for a while?”

I’ve faked it a little by having a responsibility that Ellen needs to get back to right away, during which she can remind herself that she is unsatisfied with her life and that she can’t stop thinking about this Robin fellow and his secret door, and that might work.

Likewise, the “because Ellen finds Robin herself, she wants Robin to be interested in her” thing doesn’t match up. I have a scene where Ellen’s friends are all “did you finally meet someone who could be a romantic partner,” so that could be how it matches up: because Ellen’s friends suggest Robin could be a romantic partner, Ellen tries flirting. Either way, I know that section needs more work because the cause and effect don’t quite harmonize yet.

But again—this is why it’s a draft, and why I’m doing exercises like this, and why I’ve given myself a good long time to play with this story.

Because I want readers to end the book thinking about the way the story’s elemental questions were resolved. ❤️

Where I Got Published Today: Lifehacker

Plan to Retire Even If You Don’t Plan to Retire

If you’re one of the people who has decided to solve the retirement problem by “working for as long as possible,” it’s time to ask yourself what might happen if your working days end sooner than anticipated.

You Don’t Need All the Qualifications Listed in a Job Posting

If you’re job hunting and you find a potential job where you only meet some of the requirements, go ahead and apply. Worst-case scenario, you don’t get the job. Best-scenario, you get hired—and find yourself in a position where you can grow.

Where I Got Published Today: Lifehacker, Bankrate

Lifehacker: Want to Be Happier? Live Closer to the Stuff You Want to Do

The next time you’re apartment or house hunting, don’t start by looking for the perfect building or home. Instead, look for the places where you’d like to spend your time—gyms, libraries, restaurants, and so on—and pick a home as close to those amenities as possible.

Preferably, no more than 15 minutes away.

Bankrate: Bye, billfold: A guide to paying with your mobile wallet

If you’ve never used a mobile wallet before, you might be curious about how it works — and why it could be a better option than a credit card. Read this guide to learn how mobile wallets work, the pros and cons of using a mobile wallet, and which mobile wallet might be right for you.

Let’s Do Jami Attenberg’s 1000 Words of Summer

Currently, my NEXT BOOK draft includes 33,460 words.

I suspect it’ll be just over 50,000 words by the time the draft is finished, although I anticipate adding to the draft during the revision process (remember, there are sections where I feel like I’m only writing 70% of a story).

Which means I am very excited that author Jami Attenberg is running 1000 Words of Summer again this year.

Unlike NaNoWriMo, which asks you to write 50,000 words in a month (that’s 1,666 words per day, which would be totally doable if I wasn’t already writing four articles a day for my freelancing clients, also I gotta do family stuff over Thanksgiving), Attenberg is inviting us to write a thousand words per day for fourteen days.

June 17 through July 1.

I can do that. I couldn’t last year, because the project coincided with my book tour and vacation (and although I did keep writing throughout my book tour, I said no to writing during my four days of vacation) but I can this year.

This means that I’ll probably have the NEXT BOOK draft finished by the end of 1000 Words of Summer, if not before.*

That’s both unbelievable and totally believable.

Anyone else want to participate? ❤️

*If I do end up finishing the draft before 1,000 Words of Summer is over, I’ll revise a 1000-word chunk of text each day, or something like that.

Where I Got Published Today: Lifehacker

Stop Feeling Bad If You’re Not Saving Every Penny to Buy a Home

If you feel a little behind on your homeownership goals—or if you’re wondering whether homeownership should even be one of your goals—don’t worry. First, you’re not alone. Second, it’s harder to save up for a home than it’s been in a long time.

How to Level Up Your Freelance Income This Year

Your goal is to develop the kind of client/freelancer relationship where they can count on you for work and you can count on them for money. The kind of relationship where they offer you more work before you even have to ask.

Where I Got Published Today: Lifehacker

Make More Money as a Freelancer by Turning Down Work

In short: if a client offers you a gig and you’re not sure you have time to fit it into your freelance schedule, don’t take on the extra work and run yourself ragged. Tell the client you’d like to work with them but you’re currently fully booked, and see how they respond. 

Try Making Small Tweaks Before Big Life Changes

If you’re not happy with your life, is it better to make a small tweak or a big change?

The answer, of course, depends on what you’re hoping to achieve—and how much risk you’re willing to take to get there.

Where I Got Published Today: Bankrate, Lifehacker

Bankrate: American Airlines and Hyatt Hotels team up for crossover rewards-earning partnership

Good news for American Airlines and Hyatt Hotels loyalty program members: You’ll soon be able to earn World of Hyatt points as a passenger and American Airlines AAdvantage miles as a guest.

Lifehacker: How I Increased My Net Worth by $27,000 in Six Months

I read Financial Freedom three times, cover-to-cover. I did all the exercises and plugged my numbers into Sabatier’s online calculators. I realized that with my current expenses, I could “retire” and live off my investments as soon as those investments hit $750,000—which, at the time, the calculators predicted would take twelve years to achieve.

Of course, I’m not really planning to retire in my late 40s. I’m both a writer and a novelist; we tend to keep working until our final hours. But I’m also realistic. I’ve been a freelancer for seven years, but I can’t guarantee my web writing career will last another seven; even if there’s still the same demand for articles and content, I may start getting passed over for fresher faces with a better grasp of pop/youth culture.

Lifehacker: Change Your Loyalty Program Passwords Now

Hackers don’t just target high-value travel rewards, either. The NYT reports that one man had 9,700 Buffalo Wild Wings points stolen. According to BWW’s Blazin’ Rewards site, that’s enough for nine free lunches (not counting tax and tip) and one free order of street tacos.