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.

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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 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.

 

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.

Finishing off that first draft

Like many writers before me, and sure to be many writers after, I find the final push towards that completed first draft is extremely difficult. For some reason, the brain decides to press hard on the brakes while simultaneously throwing up a wall, breaking all real flow of writing and making it very hard to finish anything, let alone the climactic portion of your novel.

Over the past decade or so I’ve encountered this problem more times than I’d like to admit or say, but during this time I’ve also managed to come up with a few different strategies to try and break through the what seems to be impenetrable wall. So, without further ado, here are some tips and strategies to help you conquer what some say is the hardest portion of writing.

1) Take a break from your current project.

For me, this is always my go-to option whenever I’m trying to finish writing the last part of my first draft. If I find myself standing there, looking at that unbearable wall, working on something else somehow manages to open my mind back up and gets the words flowing again. Some people find they need to stay within their book universe, so they either work with an existing character already found in their novel (which can lead to an interesting spin-off novel!), or they take their main character and place them in an entirely different scenario and see where it takes them. Who knows, maybe you’ll end up using some of that writing in a later project (sequel maybe?) or fit it in when you’re working on an edit. Other times, people find it helpful to completely step back from their universe and begin working on something else. It might just be a one-shot, or maybe it turns into your next full-scale project, but the complete removal from all things familiar sometimes helps harness that raw creativity only found when creating something new.

2) Try working on the next scene in your manuscript.

Though this option hasn’t been always as successful for me in the past, skipping your current scene and moving onto something else does have it’s benefits. Towards the end of a novel this tactic gets a little more difficult – since there are less and less scenes to move on to, but it can be quite effective if used with enough writing material left. Moving onto the next pre-planned scene allows for the familiarity of the characters to continue which keeps the creative flow moving and sometimes even helps spring up new ideas. Perhaps your character says something funny that strikes a chord with you; the next thing you know, that funny little statement gets something going in your head and BAM! Problem solved. The whole point of this option is to work around the blip in your story and trick your brain into thinking you’re not close to being completely finished writing yet. From what I’ve found, that’s why the wall is thrown up – not because they ideas aren’t there, but because your brain just can’t get unstuck on one particular thing. By skipping over it and continuing work on the project, you can fool your brain into thinking it’s already been written. Once the remainder of the story has been finished, you can return to that one spot you skipped over and fill in the gap.

3) Talk it out with a writing friend.

This tactic always seems to work well for me – and I would use it much more frequently if I lived in the same city as my writing partner. Writing friends (or writing groups if you’re lucky to join one of those) are a good way to hash out issues of any sort in whatever piece you’re working on, but especially issues relating to breaking down that final wall. Through their experiences and yours combined, normally some sort of an answer is discovered after a couple of sessions and you can continue on working. The key for this being successful is they type of person or group you hook up with. Hands down, the person needs to be a writer. Though non-writers can provide feedback and help with small things, it takes a writer to help their kin through a crisis such as breaking down the wall. Most writers have been through a similar situation at least one other point in their lives, which helps immensely. The other major thing I think people need to look out for is the genre in which their writing friend spends most of their time in. Myself, I write in the Y.A./N.A genres, so naturally my writing partner does so as well. Now, that doesn’t mean someone who writes in crime or mystery or fantasy wouldn’t be able to help me – I’m just saying that different genres have different checkboxes that need to be looked at and a writer from a different genre may not know all of them.

That’s all the suggestions for now! I’ll have some more in the next little while, so stay tuned! And as always, keep writing.

Until next time.

 

Writer’s Block: Rearing Its Ugly Head

I believe (though someone correct me if I’m wrong) that this is the first time since I’ve started this blog that I’ve actually posted more than one entry in the same month. I know, pathetic, right?

Getting to the matters of writing, I have to say that writer’s block is currently my biggest problem right now. My friend and I managed to finish up two short stories in our collaboration that were WAY overdue to be completed – like we started these things back in July of last year, that’s how long it’s taken. Other than those two pieces (which maybe needed 500 words each, tops) I’ve unfortunately been stuck.

The story I mentioned in my last post which I was going to work on as come to a complete standstill and it’s all thanks to lack of interesting plot. See, I’m at the point in this novel(la?) where I need time to pass, though nothing really interesting happens. I know I could do a time-jump and just put a “6 Months Later” heading in the text and just continue writing, but I’m not really sure if I want to do that yet. It also probably doesn’t help that I’m no longer certain the span of time this story is actually supposed to extend over. I thought I knew before, but all that’s changed recently since I’m editing another book that takes place in the same universe, same time frame. So now I’m not sure. Enter writer’s block on this particular manuscript.

And then I’ve got the collaboration which I’m doing with my friend. Again, same universe, but this time a different time frame which is set at least a couple years later. So why the writer’s block, you may ask? Well this one has to do with lack of inspiration instead… although I guess it’s also related to plot as well… But anyway, the semantics of the situation isn’t the point I’m trying to make here. What I’m doing a terrible job of saying is that when my friend and I started working on this collaboration we wrote down a list of all the short stories we wanted to tell with our characters. We agreed that it was the chance for us to see them in a different, more mature and grown up light. Weddings, funerals, career decisions… those were just some of the big things we wanted to touch on. The project started in July of last year and in those first few months we probably wrote 30,000 words – maybe even more.

Now fast forward to today. All of the initial “big” ideas and stories we wanted to tell have pretty much been written now, leaving the straggling, fragmented ones left. Yes, we still have more we want to write, but the amount of time and energy it’s going to take into making those partial ideas whole is a lot to tackle together, let alone when living an hour or so away from each other. Oh yeah, did I forget to mention that little wrench in the works? We don’t get to see each other much and have had to resort to Skype dates along with the absolutely amazing editing function of Google Docs. To be perfectly honest, I’m not surprised that writer’s block as reared its ugly head in this scenario.

So here I am, stuck on two projects because I either can’t translate the ideas from my head to the page (or I guess technically it would be the keyboard or word document…), and I’m frustrated as anything. Don’t you find that whenever there’s finally time to write, that’s always when it becomes the hardest to do so? I guess in a way that’s Murphy’s Law for you right there.

Well, beyond my ranting about yet another bout of writer’s block, I don’t really have much to share writing-wise. You’ll have to excuse my lack of usual “wisdom” (Okay, I can’t even write that without cracking up) – let’s go with the moral that usually sums up whatever entry it is I’ve written; my favourite tennis player just lost a semi-final match early (like 3:30am start time early) this morning and I’m still bummed out by it. So there you have it – interesting fact about me: I’m a sports nut, tennis being one of the sports I’m super nutty over.

But without further ado, I shall end this blog post now and stop rambling. Keep writing, everyone.

Until next time.