Gifts For A Writer

So, it’s that time of year. December… Christmas time… That means present shopping. You have a friend/family member who’s an author… or maybe they’ve yet to sell that best-seller of theirs, but still spend all of their free time typing furiously away on their laptops.

So how do you come up with good gifts for a writer? Well, I’ve decided to compile a list of things that I think the writer on your shopping list will love. And don’t worry, it’s not just notebooks (though we do love to get those sometimes!). So, without further ado, here’s some gift suggestions writers will love.

Typewriter key letter necklace or cuff-links. Because what writer doesn’t want to have some fancy bling to remind them how awesome typewriters are?

Aqua Notes. These waterproof Post-Its notes are the bomb. We writers always need to jot things down at the worst possible moments (like when in the shower) and these are perfect for just that scenario.

Bananagrams. If you haven’t heard about this game, it’s awesome. You basically make words off of words. It’s Scrabble… but simplified. A writer’s dream.

Shakespearean Insults Mug. I think that this might actually be the most amazing Christmas present ever… If your special someone loves Shakespeare, this is perfect for them.

500 Writing Prompts book: Because we all have those days (or weeks) where the words just don’t want to come to us.

Scrivener: If the writer in your life doesn’t have this piece of software on their computer yet, they will love you forever when you get it for them. Scrivener takes a complicated mess of multiple documents and allows you to compile them all in one, easy to access spot. Plus so much more. If you want to learn more about it before purchasing, click here for a blog post I wrote detailing some of the things I love about Scrivener’s capabilities.

Small purse (or pocket) sized notebooks. We really can never have enough things to jot ideas down into… and not all of us like to use the memo-pad on our cell phones.

Stephen King’s On Writing. This is something every writer should have on their bookshelf. No question.

So there’s some ideas for the writer in your life. Hopefully there’s someone on this list that they don’t already have. If you have any other great gift ideas, feel free to share them in the comments section below.

Happy holidays, and keep writing!

Until next time.

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My Writing Routine

For all authors out there, I think that one of the most important things to consider is the writing routine. Without it, it’s nearly impossible to get into the flow of your novel, or whatever writing project you’re currently working on. I know personally, when I deviate from my writing routine, my productivity completely vanishes. It’s so bad that it’s like I’ve forgotten how to write sometimes. A writing routine is another way to avoid writer’s block.

So for all you writers out there that maybe need a few ideas on how to form a writing routine, I’ve created a list of the things that I like to keep consistent to help me out.

1. Have a writing playlist cued and ready to go. Whether it’s a couple hours of music, or just one song on repeat, make sure that everytime you turn on your laptop, or open your notebook, your writing playlist is ready to go. A lot of people really like to write to instrumental music – the lack of words helps keep the brain concentrated on the actual writing task at hand, but certain songs with lyrics can work too. I know for me personally, I listen to one song on repeat, and it’s a song that has words in it.

2. Character research (usually involving a Pinterest search for visual physical description). Without substantial character research, writing isn’t going to go well. Believe it or not, but you can actually write a story without having a plot in mind at first. Don’t believe me? Well, I’ve had that happen to me personally and let me tell you, it is true. Writing without a plot is one thing, but writing without knowing your characters, that’s next to impossible. You need to at least have an idea of how they act and how they will react to certain things that will happen in your story. Without cooperation from your characters, you’ll get nowhere.

3. Writing late at night. This one doesn’t always work for every writer, but I’ve noticed after searching online at what other writers say that they write well at night too. For some reason, and I have no idea why, I produce my best writing at stupid, ungodly late hours of the night.

4. Reviewing of previous writing. If it’s November and I’m participating in NaNoWriMo, I review my skeleton of a plot structure outline I haphazardly created back in September and/or October before I begin to write for that day. If it’s another other month of the year, I just open up my document, read about a paragraph or two of what I last wrote, and just go.

So there is a little peek into my writing routine. I know it really isn’t much, but hopefully that’ll give all you writers out there a bit of a base to work with. And of course, as you progress and grow with your own writing, you’ll find different things that will work for you better.

Keep writing everyone!

Until next time.

Rewriting for NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo is a daunting task. Though I’ve been fortunate and won the past five years I’ve participated, I have also failed to reach the ultimate goal of 50,000 words. I get it, sometimes life just gets in the way or your story doesn’t end up working out the way you originally wanted it to. So since NaNoWriMo is quickly approaching, I thought I’d share a piece of advice on a way to (possibly) make NaNoWriMo a little less painful.

I’ve spoken about rewrites before and why I believe they’re a crucial part of the writing process, but I also believe that it can be helpful for something as intense as NaNo.

Writing 50,000 words in 30 days (even if you’ve done it many times like myself) is terrifying. It works out to 1,667 words per day – a hefty amount, especially if you aren’t used to writing that much consistently. And of course, it’s not just the word count you need to worry about. There’s plot, characters, settings… not to mention the little details all writers have to worry about constantly. Stressed out yet? I know I was in the first couple years participating.

Enter the rewrite. All of a sudden, characters are familiar, settings haven’t changed a ton (if at all). And plot? Yes, it’s the most likely part to change of a rewrite project, but surely you still will keep elements of your previous draft’s plot structure.

The idea of writing 1,667 words every day sounds a little less daunting now, doesn’t it? Without the added stress of a brand new everything, NaNoWriMo isn’t as scary. Yes, it’ll still be hard, probably harder than any other writing project you’ve ever taken on, but it won’t be as difficult. Or at least it shouldn’t be.

So there you have it, some food for thought at least. Just another possibility to make NaNoWriMo a little easier for everyone out there. As always, good luck to all the writers out there participating this year. Keep writing everyone.

Until next time.

Creative Writing Prompts and How To Use Them

Sometimes, the words just don’t flow.

Writer’s block is something that unfortunately every single writer will come across in their writing career. In the past, I’ve written about ways to overcome writer’s block, touching on a few different techniques I’ve used to help jolt the creativity in my system. You can find those here, here, and here. I have another suggestion for you all… and I honestly can’t believe I’ve never thought to share it before.

Writing prompts are a great way to get your mind going and in the mood for writing. Sometimes (and this has actually happened to me before) it can even be the beginning of a whole new project.

There are many different places you can go to if you’re looking for writing prompts. Of course, Googling it is a solid approach. From there, you’ll find dozens of websites with hundreds of prompts out there for your perusal. I personally find the Writer’s Digest writing prompt webpage helpful, as well as ThinkWritten’s prompt page, found here. Both of these sites provide broad ideas to help push through that tough bout of writer’s block and get writing again.

Pinterest is also a super helpful site when it comes to searching for writing prompts. Just type those key words into the search bar and you’ll find tons of stuff to release your creativity. Through Pinterest, both dialogue prompts and general prompts will appear in your search. Dialogue prompts are great – they give you a (usually) single sentence a character would say, and then you have to go with it from there, making the piece your own. Sometimes, these dialogue prompts can be a couple of lines, even a small amount of banter between two characters. I personally find dialogue prompts extremely helpful, as they can get the brain firing with all creative cylinders again. They even can help out with current projects you’re working on – sometimes the dialogue provided for you sounds exactly like something one of your characters would say and that’s all you really need to get going again.

Now that you’ve found a writing prompt that you like, what do you do with it?

Like I mentioned before, writing prompts can turn into their own piece of work. Short story, full-length novel, poem, script… the sky is the limit. The thing about prompts is that they’re there to spark the creativity which has become stagnant in your brain. Sometimes that’s all they’re good for, and once you’ve harnessed that creativity again, you don’t need the prompt anymore. But sometimes that prompt turns into something much, much more. And I personally think that’s when things get really interesting. All of a sudden you’ve got a new project on your hands. New characters, a new setting, new conflicts that need to be resolved. Isn’t that what every writer looks forward to? Working on a new piece?

So there you have it: writing prompts. Another way to help keep the creativity flowing or get it jump-started again. I hope this suggestion is useful for your writing. As always, if you have any other websites you use for writing prompts, or have any other suggestions on the subject, please feel free to put it in the comments section below.

Keep writing everyone!

Until next time.

How I Stay Creative

Being a writer is a difficult occupation. Finding work – a struggle. Making ends meet – even more so. Coming up with idea after idea – depending on who you talk to, this task may actually be the most difficult. For some reason, creativity can be a real issue for a lot of writers. It’s not that the ideas aren’t always there – most of the time they are. It’s just that the process from which the ideas go from the head down onto the piece of paper or word document doesn’t always translate very well.

Over the years that I’ve been writing, I’ve found there are certain things which hinder my creativity, and help it too. For your assistance, I’ve decided to compile a short list of a couple things I do which can sometimes make the creative process a little easier.

  1. Go for walks. For some reason, I’ve always felt that nature tends to relax the mind and body and allow for the creative juices to get flowing again. Maybe it’s the calmness of leaves blowing in the breeze, or maybe it’s because you’re escaping from civilization for even just a short little while. But whatever the reason, nature walks (or even just going to a park and sitting someplace quiet) tends to help rejuvenate any sort of creative thoughts I’ve been stuck on.
  2. Take public transportation. Sometimes I need to unwind from a busy day – or a frustrating writer’s block session. If I’m going somewhere, public transportation can help give me time to think. That’s the problem I find with driving. The little times I actually do use a car, I find my brain has to focus so hard on the actual driving (which it should be doing) that I can’t think about anything else, writing included. When you’re on a bus or a train, you don’t have to focus on traffic – you can just focus on the task at hand (writing) and forget about everything else.
  3. Listen to music. Like I’ve mentioned before, I have a writing playlist (or writing song) which instantly gets me in the mood for some solid writing time. Try doing this for yourself. Music has a wonderful way of helping your brain clear out day-to-day thoughts and issues and let you forget about them. It’s yet another way to refocus your mind on the writing you should be doing.
  4. Go people-watching. I know, this one might sound a little weird at first, but honestly it totally helps out with the writer’s block. Go to a public place: the mall, the park, the local university. From there, do nothing but observe. You’d be amazed what you might see which will spark your creativity. For me, I know I’ve watched someone do something, or react in a particular way that I found interesting, and that’s ended up working its way into one of my novels. People-watching is a great way to work on character and plot development. You can always count on people to do crazy things that are novel-worthy.

So there’s a few suggestions to help keep the creativity flowing. I hope some of these ideas will help you all out with your writing endeavours. If you have anything else that works for you, please comment below. I’m always up for learning new ways to keep the words flowing onto the page! Keep writing everyone!

Until next time.

Why You Should Rewrite and Not Edit

Congratulations. You’ve just finished a novel. You’ve taken some time to decompress and relax, away from the world of writing, but now you need to dive in and start getting your piece ready for publication.

The first edit. That’s a term I’ve mentioned before, even written a whole post about it. Though looking back on the process I went through then, I should have probably titled that blog post The First Rewrite. Because when it comes down to it, that’s what it really was.

There’s a difference between an edit and a rewrite, and I don’t know if everyone always remembers that. Editing is a broad term meant for modifying, correcting and condensing written material in preparation for publication (at least, that’s what the Google definition gave me I just looked up). Rewriting is slightly different, more specific, I guess you could say. Google defines it as writing something again to alter or improve it. Similar to editing, but yet different.

For writers, we will eventually need to do both editing and rewriting before our manuscript will be publication ready. Most people assume that an edit is the first thing you should do upon finishing a first draft of a manuscript – I like to think differently.

To put it in other words, there’s a difference between polishing up something which is silver and polishing up something which is nickel. Though the nickel may still look nice once it’s all nice and shiny, it’s going to pale in comparison to the polished silver. The silver will hold up better over time, and is more valuable. This is the difference between doing an edit and a rewrite (or a series of rewrites) and THEN the edit. If you simply edit a piece, you’re only polishing up that piece of nickel, which won’t stand out amongst the rest of the field and won’t be a high quality. But, if you take your time and rewrite your manuscript before putting it out there in the publishing world, you’ll wind up with a piece resembling silver – something of value and good quality.

Analogy aside, rewrites really are an integral part of the writing process. Maybe it’s taken you a couple of years to finish your manuscript. Well, chances are your writing style has matured and changed in those couple of years since when you first began it. If you go through and do a rewrite, you can add that maturity to your piece and make it richer – make it better. Most writers don’t like doing rewrites because it takes so much time – and personally to me, it always feels like I’m completely scrapping the however many months of my life I dedicated to writing that draft. Yes, it does take time. And yes, it does feel like you’re throwing away months of good work, but it will also make your final product better. You can learn from your previous draft what worked and what didn’t work and use that knowledge to your advantage. You can stop yourself from making the same mistake again.

I want you to know that it’s not like I believe editing isn’t important – editing is EXTREMELY important to the whole writing process. I just think that edits should occur as a step after the rewriting has been completed.

So there you have it – a quick reason why I believe rewrites should be preferred to a simple edit while in the early stages of your manuscript preparation for publication. As always, if you have anything to add, please feel free to comment below.

Until next time.

How I Stay Organized With My Writing

One of the hardest things I find about being a writer is keeping my creative brain in check. It’s no secret that writer’s constantly have idea after idea after idea floating around inside their heads, along with a plethora of characters and settings to boot. Most of the time, I find writers are constantly juggling multiple projects at the same time. With this happening, keeping your writing organized can be a challenge. So how can you stay organized through all of the chaos surrounding the life of a writer? Over the years, I’ve picked up a few tips and tricks on the matter, and I’m going to share some of them with you, in hopes that it can help you out too.

1) Creating a timeline: Use Aeon Timeline software to document every important/major scene in your writing project. Even use it for the minor scenes – they’re still relevant too! You’d be surprised how much easier planning and writing becomes once you have an up to date, working timeline.

2) Keep an idea notebook: It can be either be on your electronic device or a physical hard copy in a real notebook, but always have it around you to write down random ideas. They probably won’t all be used (some will never make it further than a partial idea in this notebook), but at least you have things written down somewhere that you can refer to later if need be.

3) Make character profiles: Do this for every character, no matter how big or small. Some can be as plain as the character’s name and a brief description of what they look like. Others can be a crazy amount of in-depth knowledge on likes and dislikes, preferences, physical description… you name it, it’s there. Just try to get down something for everyone. That way, when you’re working on your piece you have an easily accessible reference page that describes the character you really need to remember. You know, in those moments when you have no idea what they look like when you briefly mentioned again fifty pages earlier in your manuscript.

4) List of things to fix: This is a very important thing to do, though it can be quite a tedious task. Once you’ve written your piece, of course that’s where the editing and re-writing process begins. While doing a read through, if you keep track of things which need to be fixed or changed (obviously not something as simple as a spelling error or grammar mistake – I’m talking the big stuff like plot or character changes), write it down in a list. It’ll make things a whole lot easier when you go to start that rewrite (and trust me, you’ll have to go through at least a couple of those).

So there’s a couple of suggestions to help you stay organized in your writing. Hope they help, and if you have any others you find work well for you, feel free to add them in the comments section!

As usual, keep writing everyone!

Until next time.