Writing Distractions and How to Deal With Them

Writing distractions are the worst.

Given the fact that we’re in the midst of another session of Camp NaNoWriMo, a time when unwanted distractions are the absolute worst, I figured I’d give you all some suggestions to avoid these distractions and allow your mind to stay productive. I know I have issues keeping distractions at bay while I write – it’s a problem all writers continue to face throughout their writing careers. Hopefully with these tips and suggestions I’ve used in the past it can help you battle the constant nagging of writing distractions too.

Instrumental music: For most people, complete silence doesn’t help them concentrate fully. The quiet actually causes your mind to drift and get you off task. If this is you, you’re going to need some type of noise in the background. Music is a good thing to fill that emptiness. Try to choose some sort of instrumental music as your background noise. Lyrical music won’t help much – your brain will subconsciously try and interpret the words, distracting you from your writing.

Writing playlist: As a side note to my above point, a writing playlist is always something good to have stowed away in your iTunes account. Having a designated list of songs means you spend less time searching for music to listen to, and more time doing actual writing. For some people, myself included, I use one song and simply put it on repeat. And this is where I’m going to contradict what I’ve said above. The song I listen to, Let Me Go by Avril Lavigne, is lyrical. The reason why it doesn’t seem to distract me? Well I’ve listened to it so many times now my brain has no need to interpret the lyrics anymore. It’s incredible what repetition can do for a writer’s brain actually. The instant I hear this song, my fingers start itching for a pen or for my keyboard. I find that I just have to write. Now I don’t know if this will help for you as well, but it may be worth a shot.

Avoid technology: I know that technology has become inherently ingrained in society and almost everyone’s life, but if possible, try shutting off the world around you. For starters, leave your cell phone on silent and in another room. Yes, I realize that most writers use a computer to write their stories, but there are ways you can avoid using the distracting features on it. There are tons of programs and apps out there which can essentially make your computer minimalist, only offering you the few tools an author may need while writing while disabling everything else. If that’s too much for you, internet-blocking apps exist as well. Or, if you’re like me and don’t like tons of programs on my computer, you can simply turn off the WiFi, either by unplugging your router/modem or disabling it on your laptop.

Set a schedule: Most writers complain they never have enough time to write. Believe it or not, but that can actually be a blessing in disguise. Sometimes, having too much time can be a problem and in turn, become a distraction. Without a deadline, writers can get complacent and let their writing go dormant. To solve this? Make a routine. Get up every morning and write five hundred words. Or do it in the evening. Or even tell yourself that it doesn’t matter when it gets done, but by the end of the day you have to have x-number of words written. Trust me, it helps. You’ll find that setting a deadline forces your brain to stop procrastinating and lets you get work done.

Now these are only a few tips and tricks of many that are out there for overcoming writing distractions. At the very least, I hope they help to open your mind and get you on your way to writing distraction-free. As always, if you have anything to add, please leave a comment below.

Keep writing everyone!

Until next time.

 

 

Why Pinterest May Be The Greatest Website For Writers: Part 2

A couple days ago, I posted an article on how the social media site Pinterest is extremely useful for writers and the visualization of characters, settings, clothing, etc. As a follow-up, I want to now get into the ways Pinterest can assist writers in a more general fashion. What do I mean by this? Things like writing prompts, suggestions, guidelines… you know, all that jazz.

Like many other writers out there, I’ve suffered from writer’s block. Well, one of the more recent ways I’ve discovered to help out with this issue is using Pinterest. Just simply search “Writing prompts” and you’ll receive hundreds of ideas to get you unstuck from whatever writing dilemma you’re currently facing. Sometimes it may be something entirely unrelated to what it is you’re working on – and that’s totally okay. Taking a break from your current project is sometimes exactly what you need to rejuvenate and recharge your writing batteries. Other times, you may actually find a writing prompt that works with whatever it is you’re writing. I’ve had both of these circumstances happen for me and they work just the same. They get me writing again, which is all that really matters.

Pinterest also has a ton of writing advice out there that authors and writers should really take advantage of. I’ve got a whole board of pins dedicated to writing tips and suggestions that I really do use when writing. Sometimes they can be as simple as a reminder on how to notice when you’re writing in a passive voice or active voice… or how to tell when a bilingual character has been written by a non-bilingual person. Other times, they can be far more detailed and explain different ways to include prologues into your writing. A lot of these tips are things you may not necessarily think of, or maybe it’s something that you didn’t know. Pinterest is wonderful for that reason – you get to read a wealth of information from experts in their own fields and then can save it to a board for later reference.

Using Pinterest for writing motivation is another way I find the social media site extremely helpful. Sometimes, when the writer’s block has hit and you just need a pick-me-up, motivational quotes are the way to go. Or maybe you’re someone who needs a list of other books that have been published in your genre as a means to spur you on. Pinterest can help with this. Having a board completely dedicated to motivation is sometimes exactly what a writer needs to get going and pick up that pen, or put their hands on those keys again.

Again, these are just a few different ways Pinterest can help an author out in a more general writing fashion. I know there are many authors out there that also use Pinterest for marketing purposes – but since I don’t have any experience in that particular area, I think I’ll leave that for someone else to explain.

If you have any more suggestions or ways you use Pinterest to help out with writing, please feel free to add it into the comments section below. Differing opinions and ideas are always welcome – in no way to I pretend to know all.

And as always, keep writing everyone! I hope you’re all gearing up for the July session of Camp NaNoWriMo!

Until next time.

 

Why Pinterest May Be The Greatest Website For Writers: Part 1

There are countless social media sites out on the internet, each of them offering us different means to share our thoughts and life with other people. For authors, social media can help us out in many different ways. Book promotion, connecting with fans, networking with other authors… and that’s just to name a few.

A little while ago I was introduced to a site called Pinterest by a fellow author and let me tell you, I will be forever grateful to her for it. In this post, along with another one I shall be putting up in a couple days, I hope to give you a few reasons why I believe Pinterest is so useful for authors. Right now, I’m going to focus on the private side of Pinterest, and what it can do for you and your specific writing.

Character depictions, settings, random quotes that mesh with your story… Pinterest is full of pictures and photos just waiting to bring out your creativity. And once I was shown all of these possibilities, I became hooked.

When I write, I’ve always found it rather difficult to conjure up an image of my characters in my mind. Vague ideas? Yes, that I can do, but full-fledged representation? No chance in hell. And I know that I’m not the only author who suffers from this problem. I’ve chatted with others who also find picturing characters difficult. It’s a problems that can have devastating effects on work in progress writing projects and wreak havoc. Sometimes, if it’s really bad, it can stunt my writing and cause a serious case of writer’s block.

This is where Pinterest works wonderfully. For example, let’s say you know your character is female, blonde, and has hazel eyes. Type that into the search bar on Pinterest, hit Enter, and voila! Dozens upon dozens of pictures of blonde females with hazel eyes for you to search through and find your character. Now, it’s not always that simple – sometimes Pinterest requires a little more keyword refinement or tweaking, but it’s there. Something physical and tangible that you can pin to a board and have for reference sake.

I also use Pinterest for fashion-related dilemmas in my writing as well. Recently, I was writing a scene where my high school-aged characters were attending their prom. Of course, when you write a prom scene you need to know what your characters are wearing. Since I have difficulties picturing things in such detail in my head,  I needed to find visual representations of everything. Hair, makeup, dresses, suits, ties, shoes… See? I’m not lying. Literally everything.

Pinterest made my life so much easier for this as well. I spend hours searching through its contents, pinning anything and everything I thought might possibly work for what I was looking for, and eventually ended up with pages of images to choose from and form my magical evening for my characters. And it helped. When I sat down the next time to work on that prom scene, I had a clear head to write. No barriers or questions arose about the visual and what everything looked like. All I had to worry about were the actual words being written down on the page.

As I’ve mentioned before, I write collaboratively with one of my friends for a series of short stories. Separately, we created a number of characters, each with a set description of the way they look, and since then, have thrown those characters into short stories together. Sometimes I will write a story involving her character, or she’ll write one involving mine. During these moments, descriptions can get rather challenging, since I am not the creator of her character, nor is she of mine. This is where Pinterest takes on yet another form of usefulness for us.

Pinterest has two types of boards: public and secret. Public boards are pretty self-explanatory I think. Secret boards are too – they can only be viewed by the creator of the board. Now Pinterest has a way that you can share a board with others and make them collaborators of it. This is what me and my writing friend do. Boards that involve characters we need for our collaborative project are shared between the both of us, and pins are added of physical representations of all things necessary for us to know. So with a couple of clicks of my mouse, I can have access to a picture of her main character, or the school that she goes to, or the outfit she was wearing for a particular scene of a short story. All of this information which is crucial for the continuity of our stories, I can see without having to bother my co-collaborator every single time I have a question. It makes writing so much easier, I can say that with entire confidence.

So there are just a few reasons why I think Pinterest is extremely useful for writers. Of course, this is only Part 1 of my reasonings – in the next few days I’ll post some more, this time focusing on the more public side of Pinterest and what it can do for writers in a more general fashion.

As always, keep writing everyone!

Until next time.

Why Being a Writer is Like Riding a Rollercoaster

Being a writer is both the most exhilarating thing and the most terrifying. Writing is full of so many ups and downs that sometimes (more frequently than not) it’s hard to keep straight what’s going on in your emotion department. There’s nothing like finally putting the finishing touches on a manuscript and saying to yourself, “Hey, look at what I did. Look at what I created.” But, on the other hand, some of your lowest points can come as a writer too – like when you get a terrible review, or you’ve been rejected for the millionth time.

Writing is my passion, it’s what I want to do for the rest of my life. And there’s nothing like that feeling when you realize someone else has enjoyed something you’ve written, and you’ve maybe even helped them figure something out. Positive comments, reviews, even someone offering to re-post or re-blog something you’ve worked on, all give off this euphoric sense and suddenly you’re on Cloud Nine. It feels like nothing will be able to tear you down from the high you have.

Until you receive a nasty comment from someone on the internet. Or that person you’re catching up with scoffs at you when you inform them you’re a writer. Or a thousand other scenarios – if you’re a writer, you know what I’m talking about.

So then you have to pick yourself up by the bootstraps, tell yourself that what you’re doing does have worth, and start over. Soon you find a new idea – a great idea – the idea that’s going to send you over the top. And you pour yourself into it over the next few months (or years, depending on how fast/slow of a writer you are). The plot, the characters, the setting – they all become a part of you. You feel as if you’ve given everything to this piece, every ounce of your soul. Suddenly, you’re on Cloud Nine again, with a finished piece and confidence booming.

I think you know what’s coming next. More rejections, more negativity, more self-doubt.

Does it feel like a roller coaster yet?

The key to this never-ending cycle is to find ways to keep bringing yourself back up. Pep-talks (from either yourself or people close to you), rewards, even just simply pausing to reflect and realize that not everyone in the world can do what you’ve just done. You’ve created something entirely from your mind. Yes, you may have borrowed little ideas here and there, but the words, they’ve come from you. No one can take that from you and don’t ever let anyone think that they can.

Even with all the bad that’s been thrown into the occupation, I still wouldn’t change a thing. To be writer is more important to me than most people understand. It allows for my brain to think up possibilities that wouldn’t normally exist, or walk in the shoes of someone I know I will never meet. Writing gives me the freedom to be who I want to be and not have to apologize for it. When I write, I have no boundaries.

People say that birds are the luckiest animals, because they have the ability to fly freely in the air and go wherever it is they want to go without limitations. Well when I put my pen to a piece of paper, or my fingers brush against the plastic of my keys, I feel like a bird.

So even though it’s like I’m constantly riding on the Leviathan roller coaster at Canada’s Wonderland, with moments where it feels like I’m hurtling towards the ground about to meet my demise, I’m prepared to stay on this ride for the remainder of my life. Because if that’s what it takes to be a writer, I’m there.

Until next time.

 

The Post-Project Funk

A little while ago I finished up the first draft of a manuscript. Since then, I’ve tried (and failed) multiple times to pick up another unfinished first draft of a project that’s been sitting around for the past few months. Needless to say, it hasn’t gone well.

I’ve maybe managed to hash out a few hundred words – and that’s probably being generous. The words just aren’t flowing like they were while I was working on the other manuscript. At first, I thought it was just because I wasn’t quite sure where to go with the new story from where I’ve left off. But it isn’t that, and it’s taken me until now to realize that lack of plot isn’t the problem I have. I have the post-project funk.

In a way, the post-project funk is sort of like a version of writer’s block. The only difference? Instead of having all of these ideas inside your head ready to write only to just not be able to get them written down, you just feel tired and burnt out. There’s a small part of you that knows you need to start working on another project, but you just don’t know how. And in a way, it makes sense. You’ve just completed a piece of writing. You’ve poured your heart and soul into the thing and given it your all. How are you supposed to just clear everything about that story out of your head and move onto something new?

For some writer’s, the main problem is coming up with another great story idea to write about. For other’s, they have their next project already in their minds, but just don’t know how to start. In my particular case, I have a project to work on (the continuation of a re-write I’ve had on the go for a couple of years), but I just can’t find the will to get the words down onto the page.

I know what I need to do. I need to take a break from writing and let my batteries recharge. November was insanity – I ended up writing over 55,000 words over the course of the month, and then continued that writing high right on into December until I finished the first draft of a manuscript. In the past six weeks or so, I’ve probably written close to 75,000 words. I believe that’s a new high for me, so it’s no wonder why I feel burnt out.

The thing is, I don’t want to take a break. I’ve set some writing goals for 2017 – I want to have two separate manuscript first drafts completed by the time the snow melts. More specifically, I’ve set targets of the end of February for one and the end of April for the other. With these dates set in stone, I don’t want to hesitate a moment and waste any time I could be writing. I know I’m going to need all the time I can get to make these deadlines.

This is a problem I know many writers out there face. Deadlines are a thing – and a very important thing they are. They put the fear in writers everywhere because they force us to have produced something good, even when the words just aren’t flowing right or we just can’t get in the writing mood. Personally, even though my deadlines have only been put in place for me by me, I still want to stick to them. I want to have a rigid structure and timeline I need to stick to or else I know my writing time will disappear into almost nothing. It’s happened before to me and then I went into a dry spell for a couple of months.

For this problem, there really isn’t a solution that involves continuing to write – at least that I’ve managed to find yet. If you have any, please, feel free to share them. For me, the truth is when a writer is burnt out they really do need to take a break. It doesn’t have to be long, but they need a bit of time separate from their work so they can recharge their batteries and get ready for the next battle with their words.

This is the point that I am at and I know that many other writers are at too. So take a day or two – busy yourself with something else. Go watch a couple of movies. Go hang out with some friends. Go out for walks, or go jogging. Do something that isn’t writing. Soon, the words will come back to you. Soon, you’ll be entranced in your new world and new characters. Soon, you will create another masterpiece. And then you’ll just do this all again.

Until next time.

2016: The Year of Rewrites and Finishing the Unfinished

Since there’s now less than a month left in 2016, I thought I would dedicate this entry to the overall progression of my writing and writing projects from the past 12 months. As my title suggests, 2016 has been a year of reworking and finishing projects which have already existed in the writing folder on my Google Drive account for quite some time. In years past, I’ve continued to start new project after new project without ever finishing anything. At first, it looked like that would happen in 2016 as well, though instead of beginning new projects, it was rewrites instead.

I managed to change that somehow – and I’m still not entirely sure how, but boy am I ever thankful. I’ve a new sense of urgency to finish all of these stories and have spent the better part of the year going back to pieces I’d just left off in the middle of nowhere, dusting them off, and pushing forward to finish them.

I dedicated both sessions of this years Camp NaNoWriMo to such an effort, tackling two separate unfinished manuscripts, determined to add to their word counts and get them closer to being finished. I’ve succeeded – partially at least. As I write this, I’m a mere scene or two away from completing a first draft, so that should be done by the end of 2016.

None of this has come easily, mind you. Along my way this year, I’ve stumbled upon many topics I’ve had to face. These topics became focus to a lot of my writing articles I’ve posted this year. Difficulties of point of views (especially male ones), issues with side characters, choosing the right name… All of these things and more I’ve had to deal with over the past twelve months. It hasn’t been easy. There have been many points where I’ve just sat in front of my laptop with a blank document, wondering if I was ever going to get the words down onto my page. But I’ve persevered, and through writing my blog entries about these various topics, it’s helped me push through.

I guess that’s the point of writing though. We have our ups, and we have our downs. Writers are constantly learning, constantly having to update things, research new topics, find solutions to problems that seem unsolvable.

It’s what we do.

So, in conclusion, I hope each and every one of your writing projects have flourished into something fantastic and you’ve managed to write your way out of your issues. I know I have (at least for some of them!).

Now, we move onto the new year. Here’s hoping 2017 is the most creative year yet! Happy writing!

Until next time.

Writing the Male Point of View

Writing is difficult. The carefully crafted plot, the perfect climactic moment, the creation of three-dimensional characters. All of these and more are required to make a believable and plausible novel. And then there’s the point of view (P.O.V.). I’ve already written here about the different points of views out there for authors, along with their benefits and drawbacks, but then the gender of the character speaking plays a role as well.

In my current novel, I’m writing a split-P.O.V. between a 21-year old girl and a 25-year old boy. Now, you might say, But you’re a girl, how can you write as a guy? My response? To be perfectly honest, I don’t know if I’m any good at it. I guess we’ll all find out in due time.

All joking aside though, I do believe it is possible to write in the opposite sex’s viewpoint – it just requires a little more dedication. My biggest tip? Research. Research is key.

Start off by having conversations with a guy. Find out the way they talk, the way they think – in particular how they react to certain situations. Perhaps you may know a particular scene your male character is facing, so ask them what they would do if faced with that issue. I know it’s not necessarily the same, since most likely the person you’re talking to isn’t identical to your character, but at least it’s a start.

Another suggestion? Don’t just talk to one guy and call it quits after that. Like any other kind of research, you’re going to need to do some thorough digging before you come up with something concrete. So get out there and talk to lots of guys. Guys of all types, too. The more variety, the more realistic your male character is going to sound. You want to know all the options out there before you pick one which will work for you.

I’m sure that by now you’ve realized that there are some major differences between how a guy thinks and a girl thinks. To just throw some out there (and keep in mind these are just generalizations – so in no way do I believe all men are like this):

  1. Men talk less. WAY less. So if you find your male lead is out-talking his counterpart then you might want to re-visit his characterization.
  2. Guys don’t tend to notice details in the same way girls do.
  3. Men try to act like they don’t have “feelings” – even though we all know they really do so keep that in mind while you’re crafting your emotional scenes.
  4. A male character is going to notice more visually than his female counterpart, which means you’ll probably spend more time describing things than monologuing about thoughts.
  5. Guys DO NOT always think about sex. Yes, it does cross their thoughts, but most men are not sex-driven. They will, however, always notice a girl, regardless of whether or not they think they’re hot.
  6. On that note, the first look is one of instinct; it’s the second look, the double-take if you will, which really matters. This is the look which means they’re interested.

So there you have it. A short and quick guide to writing from the male point of view. Hit me up with a message or comment if you have anything to add!

As per usual, happy writing everyone!

Until next time.