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.

 

 

Writing Software Worth Investing In: Scrivener

Two months ago I blew the dust off of an old manuscript from NaNoWriMo 2014. I’d dabbled with it throughout the past year, but had set it aside for the latter part to focus on the 2016 version of NaNo and finishing up another old project. So come January, there I sat with an eighty-four thousand word unfinished manuscript. At first, the writing process went great, but I soon realized that one of my main characters was asking me for a pet. I had to oblige, but that meant I needed to go and add in a dog to so many scenes. This was going to be a huge undertaking.

Enter the writing software, Scrivener.

As writers, I’m sure many of you have heard of Scrivener, but in case you haven’t, I’d like to tell you how Scrivener most definitely saved my life… errrr, well… writing life at least.

Scrivener is a glorious writing software designed to help frazzled people like me get organized with their writing. Everything that Scrivener does can be boiled down to compartmentalizing. In other words, it basically takes a very large jumbled mess of a text and breaks it down into smaller, more manageable chunks.

For me and my manuscript’s pet problem, this helped immensely.

scrivener-manuscript-details

Scrivener’s detailed manuscript options

Let’s say you have a novel. Well that novel is going to be broken down into chapters, right? Easy. Scrivener can do that. But let’s say within those chapters, you’ve got point of view changes, or jumps in time between different scenes. Well, Scrivener can also do that. You can customize your manuscript to have as many scenes within a chapter, all while having them in a separate file so they can be easily navigated through. The best part about this? Every single bit of your manuscript is in the same document. Goodbye alt-tab window-flipping.

 

This doesn’t work for you? No problem. Click on the Manuscript function in the sidebar and you get another version of manuscript organization, though this time it’s on a traditional, more old school looking corkboard.

 

With the corkboard, you’re given different options than the sidebar. First of all, if you’ve set it up you can view the status of each of the files and folders within your whole document. Some of the options? First Draft. To Do. Revised Draft. Done. All of these are tools you can use to help keep your manuscript organized and up to date with current achievements.

Another cool feature? You can use what Scrivener calls labels to give unique markers to each of your file and folders. This shows up in the right corner of each corkboard note. Each label has it’s own distinct colour. Green for chapter, orange for notes, blue for scene, yellow for idea, and red for character notes.

scrivener-corkboard-variation

Scrivener’s corkboard: the hub of all your folders and files

As you can see, for my specific project I currently only am using the chapters label, but you honestly can’t believe how helpful some of the other options were during the writing process. All of these labels and status options made the construction of my manuscript much simpler.

So, how did this help me when I needed to go back and insert a dog into various chapters? Well by working in this program earlier, I was able to use the folders and files to split up my novel by important events and character point of views. When it came time that I needed to go back to old chapters, finding them was a breeze. If I’d been using just a normal word processing document, I would have wasted so much more of my writing time trying to figure out where my chapter breaks were. It would have taken me a lot longer to complete my draft. Of course, it also helped that I’m able to write on each of the notes signifying files. I used this space to write a quick summary of key points that happen during each chapter. Does that ever help when you’re scanning through for certain moments.

The label and status features Scrivener offers was a time-saver as well. Since you’re able to write on each of the little notes, I had no problem locating the chapters requiring my newly acquired pet. Marking them as a To Do was as simple as right-clicking on my mouse and selection the option from the drop down menu.

I’ve only just really begun to utilize Scrivener for my writing. I know there’s still much more I have to discover and learn about it, but I honestly can say that I can’t wait to do so. Scrivener has changed my life, simplifying elements of my writing that used to be so complex and take up a lot of my precious time. I highly recommend it. Trust me, it’ll save you.

If you’ve had any amazing experiences with Scrivener, or you know of another really cool feature I haven’t talked about, please, share it in the comments sections and help a writer out.

As always, keep writing everyone!

Until next time.

 

Life After NaNoWriMo

So it’s official. November has come and gone and with that, another year of NaNoWriMo is over too. To everyone who participated, congratulations! Even if you didn’t hit the 50,000 word goal target, you’ve still created something, which is the core of what NaNoWriMo is striving to achieve. So kudos to you!

With that said, I’m sure you’re feeling a lot of things right now. And you all must equally have just as many questions. The biggest and most common one? Now what? Now that I’ve written a novel, what do I do?

The answer? Whatever you want to. Now, I do recommend taking a well deserved break. Go celebrate, you deserve it! Enjoy the fact that you’ve just created something! Go out and have some fun (because if you’re anything like me you pretty much have been living under a rock for the past 30 days and haven’t really seen the light of day much).

There are a few things I do suggest you do now that NaNo is over.

  1. Write down any further thoughts you have on your novel (if it isn’t complete, or even if you know certain parts need some major revision). Just jot them down so you’ll remember them later on.
  2. Set it aside! I know this many be hard for some (you have just dedicated the past month of your life to this thing!) but you need to take some time away from it. Keep those notebooks or computer documents and files closed for some time (at least a couple of weeks) and don’t go anywhere near them. You need a break from your world and your characters.
  3. Once thoroughly rested, pull out your manuscript and read it over. Don’t edit it, you read. This is important. For this, you are merely a reader. You are not a writer or creator. By removing yourself from that role, you can view the manuscript as a whole – and probably will see it through a much more critical eye. Watch – you’ll find yourself catching mistakes or plot holes you didn’t see when you were writing and creating this masterpiece.

After this is done, the hard part begins. Here is where you have two different options, and they will entirely depend on whether you finished your novel’s plot during NaNoWriMo. If you haven’t, this is the part where you need to dig in and finish it. If you’ve skipped over filler or boring scenes, guess what? You have to write them now. If you still need your climactic ending? Look what you have in store. It’s difficult, I know – trust me, I’ve been there MANY times – but you need to do it all now before moving onto the next step. It’s important. You may never finish your novel otherwise. Take it from someone who’s had this happen to them.

If you were lucky and managed to finish the whole plot to your novel during the month of November, you get to move onto something else entirely. Get ready. It’s going to be a doozy. The first edit. Now, I’m not going to go into this topic into detail, but if you want to read more about it, I did another blog post about it in the past which you can find here.

Beyond the first edit, and the subsequential rewrites which will follow, I recommend letting a close, trusted friend or writing partner read your manuscript over. If you feel comfortable with it, maybe even give it to a few different people. A beta reader (or two) is always something you should consider when you’re moving down the stream towards publishing.They can help catch things that you might not see anymore due to the close relationship you share with both the characters and plot. Having someone read your work that hasn’t seen it before will help catch unwanted errors you’ve become unfazed by.

Following beta-readers comes another few rounds of editing. Eventually, you will come out with a polished manuscript ready for the publishing world.

Publishing (and all the different routes involved with that) is where I shall leave this particular blog post. I feel that’s a topic that needs to have a dedicated section (or at least an article) all to itself. Another day, another time.

As always, happy writing everyone, and congratulations once again to all the Wrimos out there! Win or lose, you all achieved something wonderful this past month!

Until next time.

The Fears of NaNoWriMo

November 1st. To many, it’s just another day in the year. To writers, it means that it’s the first day of NaNoWriMo. What is NaNoWriMo? To sum it all up, it’s when writers try to write 50 000 words in the 30 day month of November. If you want to know more about it, check out here. If you want to get involved with it, go here.

As per usual, I’m participating again this year and I encourage you to do so as well. NaNoWriMo can be both terrifying and exhilarating. Sometimes it starts off one way and turns into the other, sometimes you get both emotions at the same time. Personally, what I’m dealing with at the moment, and what I know is a major stumbling block for many Wrimos, is confidence.

Confidence plays a huge part in a writers overall success of NaNo. Depending on your level, it can either help or hinder you. For me, I’m entering NaNo this year feeling the most confident I’ve ever felt – and believe it or not, it’s unsettling. I’m working with a particular set of characters I’m super familiar with; I know the plot I have to write like the back of my hand. So why am I nervous? Because it’s NaNoWriMo, and because anything and everything can go wrong.

On the other hand, my closest writing friend, and my co-conspirator for all things writing, is facing the same problem, but for the opposite reason. This year, she is almost completely pantsing NaNo. Yes, she technically has a story premise and knows a little of what’s going to happen, but she has absolutely no idea where her plot will end up. She’s dealing with a lack of confidence issue and a sense of feeling lost in it all.

So how do you deal with either of these scenarios, you may ask? The truth is, I don’t really know. NaNoWriMo is such a stressful month that for the most part, all sort of advice and suggestions tends to fly out the window. Now, that doesn’t mean if you’re facing this situation you’re completely messed and are going to lose it.

For people that have a lack of confidence due to feeling under-prepared, my best advice to you is just stick with it. Talk to others, preferably writers, but if you don’t have them, just talk to someone who knows you well. Talk out your issues and problems and concerns – maybe they’ll be able to help you with something.

For people like me, that are nervous for feeling over-prepared, it’s more difficult to give any advice. I’ve never faced this particular problem before; every other year participating in NaNo I’ve been the other case scenario. A suggestion? Keep telling yourself that you’ve got this. That you know what you need to do and now you just need to do it.

So there you have it. Have other suggestions or comments? Please leave them below and help a fellow Wrimo out. As always, keep writing, and Wrimos, I’ll see you on the other side. Good luck.

Until next time.

Prepping for NaNoWriMo

With only a few weeks before the 2016 edition of NaNoWriMo starts, I thought I would focus this post on the prep which goes into taking on this daunting task. For those of you who don’t know what NaNoWriMo is, it is an even which occurs every year in November, where authors from around the world attempt to write 50 000 words in the 30 day month. If you’d like to know more about it, I wrote a post about it a while back. You can also check out their official website for more information.

Prepping for NaNo is insanity. You need to do character profiles, world-building, plot construction… All of which will require a decent amount of research. And that’s not even including the whole mental preparation side of the matter. Since there are a few ways to complete NaNo (plotting and pantsing), writing prep isn’t always necessary, but I have some tips for those who decide to plan their novels out.

Creating an outline is the suggestion I think helps out the most when it comes to NaNo prep. Without one, you’re left to fend for yourself with plot progression. An outline can be as simple or as complex as you like. Personally, I tend to write out in point form as much detail of every scene I plan to write in chronological order. This helps to keep your thoughts straight and allows for you to pick back up where you left off every day without much hassle. If you’re looking for something more structured to plot your novel around, take a look at this blog post. They have a few different types of templates for story plots, but also some helpful ones for character profiling.

Speaking of character profiling, this is extremely important too. Everyone always focuses on the concern around the plot planning – which is definitely important – but just think about it. If you don’t know how your characters will react in a certain situation, how are you going to write about it? The key is to know the little things about them. Do they have any weird idiosyncrasies? How do they react under pressure? Do they have any nervous tics? Or what about their likes and dislikes? What’s their favourite colour? Season? Food? All of these things might seem useless when it comes to your plot, but knowing them will help you understand your character in more depth. To make them believable, they need to seem real to you.

While prepping for the writing side of NaNoWriMo is good, you need to remember your mind needs some prep as well. This is just as important – you can have everything planned out perfectly, but if something goes wrong along the way, you need to be able to think clearly and handle it quickly.

Tip #1: When you partake in the journey of writing 50 000 words in 30 days, you need to remember just that: you’re trying to write 50 000 words in 30 days. That means what you write doesn’t have to be perfect. It can have mistakes, it can have plot holes. The whole point of NaNoWriMo is to just finish. Perfectionism can’t happen during NaNo – if you let it creep in, it’s going to stunt your creativity and make writing that 1600 words per day extremely difficult. I know it’s going to be difficult – trust me, five years in to participating in NaNo and I still want to edit while I write – but you need to shut away your inner perfectionist if you want to finish.

Tip #2: You should lay out a writing schedule. Set a time every day, even if it’s only an hour or two, and stick to it. For those of you that do shift work and can’t set a definite time for every day, that’s alright. I get it, I’ve been there. Instead of a particular time of the day, just try for a time limit. Tell yourself that you will write for an hour every day – it doesn’t matter when, but before that clock strikes midnight every night, you have to have spent an hour writing.

Tip #3: Find a writing group or partner. Mentally, the thought that there’s someone else out there keeping tabs on you will push you to write and stick to that schedule. Check out the NaNo regions page and see if there’s one near the city you live in. They’re really good for setting up write-ins (places where you and other NaNo-ers can meet up and write together) and are a great support group.

So there you have it. Some tips to get your NaNo prep into full swing this year. As always, if you have any other suggestions or comments, please leave them below. Happy writing, everyone! (And to all my Canadian readers, Happy Thanksgiving!)

Until next time.

Camp NaNoWriMo

As my title suggests, I’m going to talk about Camp NaNoWriMo, a summer-y (sort of) version of NaNoWriMo that happened in April and July of every year.

I have to say, in a lot of ways I actually prefer Camp NaNo to November NaNo. One of the major differences between them is the ability to set your own writing word count goal. Though I enjoy the challenge a 50 000 word goal gives me during NaNo, it is nice to have a more leisurely time writing in the months of April and July – months that in the past have been quite busy for me with final exams and intense summer job hours. Having a smaller word goal also allows for writers to focus on what it is they’re actually writing, as opposed to NaNo where a writer is literally trying to just get words out onto the page to make word count for the day. I like this aspect of Camp NaNo, and I don’t think it’s just because I’m one of those writers that has a problem leaving something alone that I know isn’t completely right. I feel like the quality of my writing drastically improves during the Camp NaNo sessions – which it should.

The other HUGE thing about Camp NaNo which I LOVE is the choice it gives you when you’re setting up your project and adding to your word count. Camp NaNo allows for revision to count as words. I believe it’s every hour you work at solid editing, it counts for a thousand words. Technically you could use this format for NaNoWriMo as well, but it’s definitely not recommended. See, NaNoWriMo is designed solely for writing a novel in 30 days – there isn’t an option to use NaNo as an official revision period. Camp NaNo, on the other hand, allows for your project to be listed as a revision of a previously written piece.

For me, both of these tools specific to Camp NaNo really helped me this past month – and all the other Camp sessions I’ve completed and participated in over the past few years. I was able to set my word count goal for something that I think is manageable for me to complete in the varying busy-ness of my Aprils and Julys, but I could also do an entire revision project for a session, or a partial revision and partial writing project too. The variety Camp NaNo provides is something I love, and if you haven’t tried writing during one of their two sessions per year, I highly recommend you do so.

As always, everyone, keep writing and we’ll talk soon!

Until next time.

 

NaNoWriMo: Another November Come and Gone

Well, as my title suggests, it’s now December, which means my quest for completing NaNoWriMo is over for another year. I am happy to announce that despite my lack of preparation (which was writer’s block’s fault, not mine… AT ALL) I was successful in finishing NaNoWriMo with a grand total of (drum roll please…) 54 785 words!

Yes, I actually managed to finish the grinding task of writing all of those words, though I have to give a HUGE shout out to my dad for helping me do some quick story-plotting in desperate times. See, at about 20 000 words or so, I found myself 4/5 of the way through my carefully thought out plot. Clearly, I wasn’t going to be able to stretch out my little remaining plot to cover over half of my unfinished novel, so I had to go back to the drawing board and figure out how I could extend my story. Hence where my dad came in.

Without going into elaborate detail, the two of us managed to create a whole new character and insert a love triangle potential which hadn’t been present in the original novel planning. So, thankfully, crisis averted. The rest of the writing went along fairly smoothly and I hit the target word count with about five or six days to spare. All and all, with all things considered, it went quite well.

The most interesting experience I had with this whole writing process is something I’ve never had to deal with before. I actually started to get sick and tired of the characters I was working with. Now I don’t know if other writers have ever had this problem before, but it’s a new experience for me. Every previous story I’ve ever worked on, I’ve enjoyed working with the characters and they’ve become a somewhat sort of family for me. This time around though, it isn’t the case. Yes, there is the occasional character that I know I have a soft spot for, but I don’t feel the same connection as I have in the past.

I guess I just haven’t spent as much time with these particular characters as I have with the other ones. And this is the first time in years that I’ve written outside of the little universe I’m so comfortable with writing about. So I do get that it’s going to take some time for me to know this set of characters in the same sort of intimate way. I guess you could just say that I’m impatient.

So for now I’m picking back up working on the collaboration of short stories with my friend. I need to slip back into my comfort zone again, at least for a little while. I know that I’ll have to pick my NaNoWriMo story back up eventually, but for now it can wait.

To everyone out there that completed NaNoWriMo and won, congratulations. Take a break, relax, but do go back and write again in the near future.

To all those that participated but didn’t win, good on you. It’s a difficult challenge. Don’t be discouraged and try again next year.

And for everyone else, thank you for putting up with this not so interesting post-NaNo entry. I promise the next one will be more entertaining (or at least filled with a bit more humour).

Until next time.