Posted in General, writing

Daily Writing Habits

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?

Posted in Exercises

Exercise: Vocabulary

As a writer, you’re always searching for the best word. Word choice is probably one of the most important tools you can develop. It helps when you have plenty of words to choose from. The best way to give yourself those choices is to develop your vocabulary.

As an exercise: find a vocab list of words you don’t use often or don’t know and write a story. You can check out places like Vocabulary.com, RandomWordGenerator.com or WordCounter.net to get a list of words to get you started. Try to use every word on your list to make a short story.

Posted in General, writing

Camp NaNoWriMo

Three months a year, NaNoWriMo hosts a writing event. For the regularly scheduled NaNoWriMo in November, the goal is set at a solid fifty-thousand words within thirty-days. For the two Camp events in April and July, you have the option of setting your own goal.

Because I have such a bad habit of start ten million projects and simply never finishing them, I’ve opted to only work on new projects during the three NaNoWriMo events. Technically, this is something I started last year, by trying to finish at least a few of the continuously unfinished projects I have on the list.

So far it’s worked out decently. Although we’re only a few days into April, I’ve found a lot of the ideas I’ve had on hold are better fleshed out even though I haven’t been working on them. I’m aiming to get two novellas written this month.  

Are you doing Camp NaNo? What project are you working on for the month?   

Posted in General

The Importance of Rest

Normally I like to have my posts written at least a couple of days before actually posting them. This way if there’s any extra research I need to do or if I know I’m going to have a busy week, I don’t have to stress about a post last minute.

The exception to that however, is today’s post, and the reason behind it is painfully obvious: I overloaded myself. Between holiday celebrations, my day-job, editing, and trying to prep myself for next year, I forgot to give myself time to rest.

Ultimately it resulted in me sitting down on Sunday with a list of things I wanted to get done and absolutely no energy to do any of it.

Often when we’re working on multiple projects or obligations, we forget that we ourselves are one such obligation. Eating, bathing and sleeping are our most basic needs but as people we have another basic need: rest. As a general rule, humans are anxious creatures but we’re not meant to stay in a constant state of energy consumption. We need to take time to rest and recover. Just like you need to put your phone or laptop on the charger, you need to recharge your own batteries.

And just like that electronic you need to charge, while you can ignore the draining battery for a while, at some point you need to recharge it. Screens dim their brightness to conserve battery, background processes and apps get limited. Your creative abilities are limited when you need rest and your willingness to complete a task is similarly hamstrung.

If, like me, you’re staring at your to-do list and getting none of it done, the easy fix is to take some rest. Take the day and enjoy the hobbies you enjoy just for yourself. Take a walk or a hike, indulge yourself in a long bubble bath, a glass of wine or some other treat. Let yourself rest.

We’re almost through 2020. It’s been an incredibly stressful year trying to manage so much bad news. Take a day or two before the year ends and let yourself recharge.

Posted in General

Why Writing Resolutions Fail

It’s that time of year where we all start looking towards what comes up next. Especially now that 2020 has finally gotten a little bit of good news. While Covid-19 is far from being under control, it’s nice to have some hope that we’re getting there now that a vaccine has been found. 2021 may not bring much in the way of change right away, but it is bringing with it hope. It’s also bringing what is perhaps the only thing that looks the same this year as it has in the past: New Years’ Resolutions.

For those of you who got bitten by the writing bug this year, you might be wondering what sort of resolution to make to keep that writing spirit going. Resolutions themselves are great, and they’re meant to improve your life. Keeping them however, isn’t easy. There’s a few reasons they may fall apart.

Vagueness. If your first instinct when trying to think of a writing related resolution is to shout ‘write a book’ this is your primary problem. A book covers a lot of ground—is it a memoir? Children’s book? Anthology? Epic fantasy saga? To avoid this trap, get specific. Include details like what kind of book and how long. Consider adding a deadline, such as having thirty-thousand words written by the end of March, or something similar.

Unmeasurable. Getting from point a to point b is a lot easier if you can see how close you are. That means using some form of measure makes it easier to achieve your goal. Try putting your goal into a measurable form, such as writing 200 words a day, or finishing one short story a week. This way you can track your progress. Making your goal measurable also makes it more manageable, which makes it easier to stay on track if you have a bad day, week or month.

Unrealistic. Often the goals we want to accomplish aren’t in line with where we are now. In some ways that’s a good thing. A goal should give you something to strive towards and work for. In other ways however, where we want to be can be a little farther than we can reasonably reach in a day, a week, a month or even a year. You’re not likely to go from rarely writing to writing a novella a week every week. Take stock of your skills and set a goal you can realistically reach.

Accountability. Having a goal is good—but having someone to cheer you on through your accomplishments and give you a pep talk when things get rough makes you much likelier to complete your goals. In fact, you’re 65% more likely to succeed if you have someone to help hold you accountable. So make sure when you’re setting your resolutions, you tell someone and buddy up if you need to.

What are some of your writing resolutions? How will you accomplish them in 2021? Let me know in the comments!