A child hood friend confesses deep feelings for you. Unfortunately you’ve already sold them out to their rival.
One of the most common pieces of advice thrown around for writers is to write daily. There’s no arguing that even just a hundred words a day will add up at the end of the year (you’d have just over thirty-six thousand to be exact). The key to that however, is in not missing a day.
Sometimes, sitting down at the keyboard for an hour or more just isn’t possible every single day. There are days where I struggle to find even a half hour, and frequently it’s in little scattered chunks of time. Five minutes here, ten minutes there. Tiny chunks that get interrupted.
The key to making writing a daily habit is often in size. I can’t always sit down and hammer out three thousand words a day—but I can certainly find fifteen minutes to scribble something down.
By keeping my daily habit small, it’s manageable. Even when I’m just not in the mood to write, having a small goal means I can be done with it and move on to the next thing. And sometimes having that fifteen minutes is enough to find my groove and get into a flow.
Sometimes, writing doesn’t actually mean writing. There are dozens of workbooks out there that ask all manner of good questions about your story, your scene, your setting, your characters and anything else in your story. It’s not a bad idea to consider answering one or two or even three of those questions a day when you’re not actively putting words to the page. It helps sharpen your craft and polish your story.
To set a reasonable daily habit for yourself, take a few minutes and consider all the things you have to do on the daily. Include things like household chores, cooking, caring for children and the hours you spend at work. Now, consider how quickly you can write. What is the smallest possible number you can write in five minutes? Set that as your daily goal.
As a back-up for those days where writing just isn’t going to happen: Find or make a list of general questions to try and answer for every story you write. Consider things like identifying themes, recurrent messages, character motivations. Scale these questions up to be story-encompassing, and down to cover scene-level details. Set an alternate goal to answer a couple of questions (even if you don’t write the answers down right away) on your non-writing days.
What do your daily writing habits look like?
I tend to switch my projects around fairly frequently, usually from month-to-month. It’s worked out well for me for years. Until recently however, I haven’t been doing much more than choosing a monthly project to work on and sort of diving in wherever felt best. The results of that have been mixed. Sometimes it works out great, and other times I end up staring at the same chapter for days on end. A couple of weeks ago, a friend suggested that I try mapping out what I aim to accomplish for each project each month.
Which, for me makes a lot of sense. I tend to work best when I have a goal I can aim towards. While I’m a discovery writer by nature, I also have a love for to-do lists and goals. Having a roadmap checks both those boxes by giving me a list of things I want done, and dates to accomplish them by. In theory, that should mean I can streamline my editing process like I’ve wanted to do for years.
I’m testing that theory with this month’s project: Rosekeeper. If you’ve read my short novella Crimson and Gold or my serial Seventh you’re already familiar with the world of Rosekeeper. With the rough draft clocking in at just over thirty-three thousand words, it should be another novella, albeit longer than Crimson and Gold.
Like its related stories, Rosekeeper takes inspiration from Western fairytales. In this case, the Beauty and the Beast. If you’ve read Under Her Own Power, you’ve actually met one of the main characters of Rosekeeper, Sola.
Because it’s so short, I’m aiming to have a second draft completed by the end of the month. With that, I’ve broken it down into four main tasks. The first of these is completing any necessary editing notes such as outlines and character arcs. The following three are each roughly ten- to eleven-thousand sections of the story itself to be edited. All four have their own deadlines, about one per week, the first of which is to have all my notes done by the fifth.
I’m excited to see how things go now that I’ve got a detailed editing plan in place. What about you? Do you have a roadmap? What does your plan look like? Let me know in the comments below!
“I’m afraid to ask what that’s a picture of.”
A lot of worldbuilding is thinking about big-scale things. It’s thinking about things like transportation systems and political hierarchies. It’s accounting for trade systems and timelines of development.
But every so often, it helps to take a moment away from the big picture and focus instead on details. One place it might surprise you to look at the details is in your languages—specifically, in the phrasing of your languages.
English is the official language in sixty-seven countries globally. More importantly, that means there are literally thousands of phrases that can confuse even other English speakers.
Case in point, the British (and Australian, and New Zealand) use of the word ‘knackered’. Although it means tired, it largely doesn’t exist in the American lexicon. Similarly, asking an American child to show you the barbie results in them fetching a doll while an Australian child would show you their barbecue. Speaking of American specifics, we ‘break’ our bills into change or smaller denominations.
None of the above examples account for the other sixty-four countries where English is the official language. It doesn’t include Canadian loonie and toonie. It doesn’t touch on the Irish quare. Although the language might be the same, the phrases and specific use of words changes between countries.
Part of that has to do with history. Although we may hear of international events such as Prime Ministers disappearing, unless it’s happening in our own country, we largely don’t have to deal with the immediate ramifications. Over time, bad political choices tend to create a reputation. Combine that with the usual gossiping and discussion from the people and when you disappear mysteriously you might just do exactly what Australians refer to as ‘doing the Harry’.
Another part of that is cultural. It’s no secret that America is a capitalist country. In fact, it’s capitalism that gives rise to one of our phrases: don’t buy it. As an example, if someone is telling you they were late to work because their dog jumped off their balcony and miraculously landed on their neighbor’s trampoline but still escaped into the street by climbing the fence…if you don’t believe this far-fetched story, you don’t buy it.
And finally: words simply warp their meanings. Pissed for example, might mean drunk…or it could mean incredibly angry. Again, knackered means tired for many English speaking countries but has practically only come into the American use as a sort of import from European English.
So while you’re crafting your countries and your languages, take a little bit of time and ask yourself how they might refer to certain things. Would they use ‘barbie’ or ‘BBQ’ when using the shorthand form of barbeque? Are there specific cultural and historical events that might give rise to a certain phrase? What words might change meaning over time? Which countries would consider a particular word offensive?
By doing this you can help craft entire regional identities for your world. It also feeds into building better characters—after all, they may have grown up with different local phrases or even in entirely different countries.
What are some of your favorite local phrases? What are some phrases you’ve come up with in your worldbuilding? Let me know in the comments below!