Failure Isn’t Always A Bad Thing

It occurred to me earlier this evening while I was out on a walk that I won’t complete my first NaNo-related project goal in nearly seven years. In a little less than an hour, midnight will strike, rolling in with it the month of May, and signalling the end of April’s edition of Camp NaNoWriMo. Now, April hasn’t been a typical, normal month for me – there’s been a lot of stuff I’ve had to deal with in the personal part of my life – but even in those few moments I’ve had to sit down at my keyboard and type away, I just have found that I haven’t been able to do it.

I know that this is writer’s block, and I know that there are techniques that I could talk about here which can help ease the pain writer’s block causes, but that’s not what I’m going to do tonight. Instead, I’m going to talk about failure, and how failure in your writing is actually okay.

It’s been a long time since I’ve failed at something in writing – usually I have no problem at all completing a deadline (even when writer’s block hits me hard). I’ve always managed to pull through and have a big word-filled day of writing that makes me hit my targeted word count. Even earlier tonight, when I first got home from my walk and opened up my laptop, a small part of me thought I’d just do it again and power through. But then it hit me, and I began to write this piece here.

Sometimes, it’s okay to fail. Failure reminds us that we’re human and we don’t always get the things done that we set out to complete.

The sun is still going to rise tomorrow morning. I will sit down at some point in time in the near future and hash out those words counts I was supposed to conquer this past month. All will right itself. Because sometimes, that’s just the way things go.

I hope that this helps out any other fellow writers (Camp NaNoers or just regular writers out there struggling) cope with their bout of failure, and realize that you’ll get it sorted out at some point.

As always, keep writing everyone, whenever you have a spare moment to do so.

Until next time.

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Where My Characters Come From

One of the most difficult aspects of being a writer is developing real and believable characters. They are the story. Without them, your story will have a hard time getting off the ground and just really won’t have very much substance to it. You can have a great plot, but without great characters to lead the charge, a great plot will do you next to nothing in keeping the readers’ interest.

Having come up with dozens and dozens of characters over the past decade of my writing career, I’ve gone through many good characters… and bad ones too. Today, I’m going to try and enlighten you on some key factors I’ve used over the years to help create real and effective characters that your readers are going to believe.

1) A lot of writers do a brilliant job of physically describing their characters, but they forget to describe the other aspects of them to their reader. What’s their favourite colour? How do they react to a certain situation? What do they feel? To make a character believable, you need to know everything about them, down to the stuff that won’t even make it into your book.

2) Your characters have to have faults too. No one in the real world is perfect, so your characters shouldn’t be too. This goes the other way too – your characters can’t be all bad either. That won’t be believable either.

3) Try to not have your character be passive. It’s very easy to slip into that rhythm, but to create a compelling story, you need to have active characters with their own agency. Yes, it’s okay for a main character to start off as a passive character, but at some point in your story, they need to take charge and start to make their own decisions. Without this, readers will get bored rather quickly.

4) Conflict is another thing which is key to creating a believable character. Internal conflict (or conflict between the character and themselves) is important for a character to have. Without it, they won’t question themselves. External conflict between characters is also needed. People naturally fight, so your characters should fight too. No one gets along and agrees about everything.

So there are a couple of ideas that you can use when dreaming up your characters. I hope they help. In the next few days I’m going to try and get some more character suggestions out there in another entry – I’ve still got plenty of suggestions for you all.

As always, keep writing everyone! And for those of you who will be participating in CampNaNoWriMo in the month of April, good luck in your prepping month.

Until next time.

 

Automatic Writing: A Cure To Writer’s Block

As writer’s, one of the most difficult things we have to deal with is the deadly writer’s block. I’ve written many times about my personal frustrations with it, along with different tips and strategies to combat writer’s block, but today, I offer you another solution.

Automatic writing.

Traditionally used to get in contact with your spiritual side, automatic writing actually holds great value for writer’s. I’d never heard about it, until my Writer’s Craft high school teacher had us participate in a session of it at the beginning of class one day.

The process is extremely simple. Open a word document of some sort. Could be Microsoft Word, could be a simple text document – it doesn’t really matter so long as you’re about to type into it. Once your document is open and set up, turn off your computer screen. Yes, I do realize that most people own laptops and tablets instead of desktop computers, but most laptops offer a function where you can turn your screen off. And if you have a tablet (which I don’t so if I’m mistaken about this, please correct me) I’d recommend just placing something over top of the screen so you can’t see it at all.

From this point onward, you simply have to set a timer for the amount of time you want to write for, and then write.

The whole point about automatic writing is to just let the words flow. It doesn’t matter if you think you’ve made typos, or if you have no idea what to write. You just write. I’m serious… I’ve literally written “I have no idea what to write right now” and “I think I just made a spelling mistake” during different automatic writing sessions.

There’s something about just getting words onto a page that can really open up the mind from writer’s block. Because really, we only want to just start the process of getting back into the writing rhythm after a case of writer’s block. We all know that it’s never an easy fix. Automatic writing can help with that.

So there you have it – another tool to combat the terrible writer’s block. I hope it helps. It’s definitely gotten me out of a couple of writer’s block jams in the past.

Keep writing, everyone!

Until next time.

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.