Tag Archive: Writing Tips

My Top 5 Tips for New Writers

When I think back to my early writing – the really early stuff, back when I thought that five pages was long enough to be a novel – I see a gigantic mess. Flat characters, rushed plots, things that little seven-year-old me didn’t think through that are now really creepy (like the fact that one of my characters accidentally had two wives), and fairytale romances. I have a document of those old stories and titled it “The Cheese Factory.”

I can’t save you from cheesy stories or flat characters – and honestly you’ll run into those through your entire writing career if that’s decide what you do, you’ll just grow more equipped to handle them – but I can give you a few starting tips, as someone who’s been there and someone who knows quite a few beginning writers.

1. Know that it’s a commitment

This is the most important. Whether you want to write one book or fifty, (more…)

5 Tips to Help You Stick with a Writing Project

Sticking with one novel to completion is something I’m only just now learning this year. I know the struggle of losing steam and deciding to chase down a shiny new idea instead, thinking it’ll be easier. In the words of Rick Riordan, “DON’T! That new book won’t be any easier.” And it never is. As someone who has 70+ unfinished stories laying around, I can attest to that. If you keep chasing new ideas you’ll always chase after the new shiny and never finish anything. So, to help you combat that, here are five tips to overcoming “Ooh Shiny Syndrome.”

1 – Figure out what excites you about this project

It could be the characters, the setting, the plot, something more specific within these. Figure out why you want to write this story as soon as you start prewriting (or writing, if you’re a pantser). Write these things down if you need to. Keep them on a sticky note by your desk. Do something so that you can remind yourself of these things when – not if – the going gets tough.

If you’re already part of the way through the process and you don’t know what excites you about your project, you should probably give some deep thought to whether you really want to write this story or if maybe it’s actually a good idea to move on to that new shiny.

2 – Make a plan

Give yourself a schedule and a deadline. One of the things I love about NaNoWriMo is the deadline. It gives a sense of accountability if you tell yourself, “YES. I am going to finish this by this date.” And the nice thing is that you can set your own word count goal and time limit. It doesn’t have to be 50k in 30 days. You don’t necessarily have to be nuts.

You might not need a more specific schedule than a deadline, but it may help to have one, particularly considering my next point, which is…

3 – Make a habit

Figure out when you write best and, if possible, set your writing time accordingly. Whether that’s doable for you or not, try to write at the same time consistently. Eventually your brain will realize, “Oh. It’s writing time now.” As Ralph Keyes said, “Routine is a better friend than inspiration.”

4 – Don’t get too focused on the end goal

If you focus too much on publishing your book and seeing it on shelves and reading it in tangible book form, you’ll start to wish it was already finished and you’ll lose the joy of writing it. I learned this the hard way during NaNo. That said, don’t lose sight of your goal, and a little fantasizing could even be the push you need to keep going. Just don’t take it too far.

5 – Find an accountability partner

Find someone either in the same boat as you or more mature in their writing to keep you on track. Maybe check in each evening with your word count, maybe tell them where you’re at with your book at the end of each week, whatever works. Find someone to keep you writing. And if you share your book with them, they can even get you excited to keep updating by being a little tiny fandom. If you do that, though, make sure you get someone who will give you honest, constructive feedback and point out both the good and the bad. As much as compliments feel good, you don’t really want someone to tell you you’re great in an area if you’re not. If you get someone constructive in their feedback, you’ll learn your strengths and weaknesses and you’ll have an easier time growing in your skill as a writer.

 

Hopefully these tips will help you to stick with a project. Don’t forget those new shinies, though. Always make note of them for later. If one keeps nagging you, make a special note and prioritize it. Chances are it’s a good one. ;) Happy writing.

The Struggle of Sitting Down To Write

No, unfortunately I’m not off traveling. Also unfortunately, my brain constantly is. At hyperspeed. See, if I had the chance to travel, I’d take the time to enjoy the places I went and savor the trip. My brain, on the other hand, zips around from one topic to another at top speed, making it really hard to focus on anything. Which, of course, includes writing.

I find it extremely hard to start writing. Once I’ve begun and gotten into it, it’s a lot easier for me to stay focused, but being able to keep my brain in check long enough to get started is a struggle. So how do you overcome that?

  1. Participate in a word war

    These are invaluable tools. Get a writing buddy, set a time, and write like crazy (particularly if you’re writing against my friend Val. You’ll need to type like your life depends on it for that battle). Here’s how they work: You and a friend (or two, or three, or ten) set a time to start, e.g. 10:30 (although if you have to deal with different time zones, just use the minute, e.g. :30) and how many minutes you want to write for. The format would look something like this: 15 minutes at :30. And then you write, and whoever writes the most words in the allotted time wins.

  2. Use Fighter’s Block

    Seriously, this thing is amazing. You put in the amount of words you’d like to write, and then you gain or lose XP depending on how fast you write, and the settings can be changed so that you’re not constantly dying just because you’re not that fast, or so that if you’d like a challenge you can lose XP faster. You can also change how much XP you lose at a time, and modify (to an extend) the writing background and font. It’s really great to get you writing. Just don’t push the pause button and go check your email. I’ve considered taping something over the pause button so I can’t see it and won’t be quite so inclined to abuse it, because that’s something I do and need to stop.

  3. Be accountable

    If you can go write somewhere that someone will see you and be able to tell if you’re writing or browsing the internet, do it. They can catch you if you switch over, and you’ll want to keep writing to avoid the embarrassment of that. Or at least do it less often. Or, I don’t know, if you’re someone like my sister you might just find sneakier ways to switch over. ;) (Love you, Siberia.)

  4. Change your scenery

    I feel like I say this a lot. Go somewhere else to write. Your backyard, a coffee shop, your bed if you usually write at a desk (or vice versa, I suppose), etc. This could be really good or it could massively backfire and give your brain a million times the normal distractions, so try it out a couple of times and see how it works. When I write in my backyard I tend to look around and ponder what to write before doing so, which makes the process take longer, but also means there’s more thought behind it. Usually whatever I end up writing takes place outdoors, because I use my surroundings as inspiration in that case.

  5. Turn off the internet

    There are apps out there (I haven’t found a particularly good one yet) that will take away your access to specific sites. Use these to keep you on task and away from Facebook, Pinterest, wherever else you get caught in the black hole of refreshing the page (even if you know there’s nothing new). For me, those sites are Facebook and the NaNoWriMo forums. It used to be Pinterest, but I’ve since made myself stop almost ever looking at my Pinterest feed. If I need to look for something to flesh out a storyboard, character board, etc. I use the search feature or look at existing boards like my “Writing Inspiration” board and grab from there. And those searches also add to my reference boards, so it’s a working cycle. But anyway, that was rather off-topic. Continuing.

  6. Give yourself a reward

    My sister will be making peanut butter cookies soon as NaNoWriMo fuel, and as a reward for me reaching my goal of 100k on The Last Assassin. (No, I haven’t achieved that yet.) For NaNoWriMo I’ve set up rewards of apple bread, pumpkin bread, last year’s winner t-shirt, and reading Echoes by Miranda Marie, which is sitting on my shelf looking beautiful and torturing me because I can’t read it yet! Echoes is my reward for reaching 100k next month, and I am eagerly awaiting that milestone because ECHOES! Seriously, the book is amazing and you need to go buy it now. Or soon. Aaaaaand I’m off-topic again. *cough* Apologies not really for the fangirling. Anyway, set yourself a reward that means something to you and you’ll be excited to reach. Like chocolate, or baking, or an amazing, incredible, gorgeous book. Whatever works for you.

I hope that something in there helps you (and that I take some of my own advice…). What do you do when you struggle to sit down and write?

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