Posted in Exercises, writing

The WiP Showoff Challenge

One of the hardest parts of being a writer sometimes is willingly sharing our work, especially when it’s not finished. We want it to be good and we want others to enjoy it as much as we enjoy writing it.

Which is why I’d like to invite all of you to follow me in a game. Open your current Work-in-Progress to join in. Then show off your work with the following challenges:

  1. Share the title and any previous working titles.
  2. First paragraph where your MC’s name appears.
  3. Favorite line from the first page.
  4. First line of dialogue from page eleven.
  5. Least favorite line from the most recently written page.
  6. Favorite line from or about your antagonist.

Ready? Go! You can find mine down below. Drop me a link if you take up the game, I’d love to see the highlights of your work in progress!

  1. Share the title and any previous working titles.
    • Rosekeeper. So far that’s the only title.
  2. First paragraph where your MC’s name appears.
    • The rattle of the old carriage as they moved forward grated on her already sensitive nerves. For the third or fourth time, Bella smoothed the front of her dress. She was starting to get tired of hauling her finest clothes out to arguments like this.
  3. Favorite line from the first page.
    1. “One revolutionary thought at a time,” Jims counseled.
  4. First line of dialogue from page eleven.
    • “I’m sorry,” Sola said.
  5. Least favorite line from the most recently written page.
    • “What’s stopping you from hiring them?” Sola asked.
  6. Favorite line from or about your antagonist.
    • There was a monster of the Rose Garden alright, but it turned out the only monster was the one who locked women in prisons and reneged on his agreements.
Posted in writing

A Few Myths Debunked

Asking any writer what their favorite writing myth is and you’ll probably get a few laughs and a couple of swearwords. Like any other profession, misconception and popularized (and sometimes false) media portrayals have lead to some common myths about writing.

Writing is easy. Let’s put this in perspective. Writers keep track of a small theatre troupe of characters; a world full of details; the current events of a single given story and all of the drama and internal thoughts and motivations of their personal theatre troupe. It’s a lot to keep track of. That’s just the writing aspect. That doesn’t count the editing, revision and rewriting that often needs to be done to go from rough draft to publishable piece.

Romance/kid lit/mystery/etc. are easy to write! Please see the paragraph above. That applies across all genres. And if you’re not reading that genre, you are in for a world of hurt.

Writing makes you rich. I’ve heard this in person before and I’ve laughed. I will probably do so again the next time I hear it. Yes, there are wild success stories about people that have earned tens of thousands from their writing. They are the exception. Most of us are pretty pleased when we can afford to buy a fancy new pen with our earnings. Those outliers who become household names are just that: outliers and exceptions. This is especially true when you’re first starting out. If you’re in this for the money, get out while you still can.

Writers are solitary people. No, no we’re not, especially not in this day and age. We have writing groups, beta readers, critique partners to help us out. We have families, pets and friends. Some of us are lucky enough to have agents, editors and cover designers to help us through. Writing by itself may mean spending some time with just your keyboard or a pen and paper, but we don’t live in a vacuum and we’re not hermits. We have lots of people around us.

Writers are alcoholics. I can blame that quote ‘Write Drunk, Edit Sober’ as well as Hollywood portrayals for this. If you are struggling with alcohol addiction, get help. Check Alcoholics Anonymous for resources, but you can also talk to your doctor or speak to a therapist. You’re not a writer just because you’re an alcoholic. You are however, in serious danger of liver damage, heart disease, stroke, cancer and memory problems.

Writers always have perfect grammar. Take your whole salt shaker and upend it when you hear any variation of this. Everyone makes mistakes. Typos slip through, comma splices and run-ons happen. Even if a writer has an amazing editor and a proof reader, we’re only human. As for spell check, it’s only able to do what it’s already been told. Following those suggestions isn’t always the best option.

Great writers are born with a writing talent. No. Full stop. Talent means absolutely nothing if you rely on it and never try to develop it into actual skill. Talent will not magically open doors for you. Putting talented on a resume in other jobs doesn’t fly and it doesn’t work for writing either.

There are a lot of myths about writers and writing. These are only a few of them. What are some of the other myths and fictions you’ve heard about writing?

Posted in blogging, writing

Personal Writing Process

I’m a firm believer that the writing process is different for every writer. While some of us dive headlong into the story with minimal planning, others take days, weeks and even months to plot, research and develop the story and characters before we ever put a word on the page. And many, many of us fall somewhere in the weird spectrum between plotting and discovering.

Thinking on that made me curious: what does the process look like for each writer? What are some of the ways we all differ from one another and what are the techniques that work best for each of us?

To answer that, I wanted to look at my personal process, from rough draft all the way up to a finished piece.

Normally any story for me ‘starts’ when I get an idea. If I’m in the middle of writing another piece, I tend to jot down a couple of notes on it—maybe a line or a word including with any known Characters, Antagonists, Reasonings, Obstacles, Themes or Titles and possibly the Setting. I’ve been using it for years and it works for me to hold onto a possible idea until I can come back to it.

Starting on the story itself is pretty easy. Recently I’ve moved away from rough drafts and into zero drafts—or, rather, what I typically end up titling as a Story Run. Rather than writing full chapters, I limit myself to ten or fifteen minutes to write a scene. Often because I’m racing to get the words down before the timer rings, I don’t have the option to stop and think, which prevents me from getting stuck. And if I do get stuck on a particular scene, I can simply move ahead to the next scene I know about and come back to it on editing later.

Once I have a complete run I typically move off to another story for a while, letting it sit and stew. Usually I like to give at least a month between each phase of any given story. That lets me work on something else and helps give me a better perspective on what the story needs when I come back to it.

From the zero draft I start expanding, working each chunk of writing up into individual chapters. Sometimes I’ve outlined the expansion, especially when I’m missing scenes. Other times I just add more to each scene, bridging it from one to the next to get a complete rough draft.

When I start on the editing itself, I always start with an outline, as well as a list of characters and their goals. This way I can tighten up any loose scenes or expand on flimsy ones as necessary. Usually my outlines include just a sentence or two about what happens in each chapter. Once I’ve finished the second draft it tends to look a little more like an actual story, but still needs a lot of polish. At this point I can send it to an alpha reader, or if I know there are still some problems I want to fix, I can head into the third draft.

I don’t always need another outline between the second and third draft, but occasionally do. At this point I’m usually working in a side-by-side view with both drafts. Because I tend to draft short, it also means I can keep an eye on my wordcount between the two versions and expand places that need a little more detail.

At this point it’s definitely time to get a beta reader if I don’t already have one lined up. Following beta feedback, I can address any remaining structural issues and start focusing on word choice and sentence flow. Once the next draft is finished, it’s time to rinse and repeat—get more feedback, make more updates. Draft six is usually the earliest I’ll start shopping a piece around, but dependent on what my early readers tell me, there may be more drafts. And if I get critiques while trying to find a home for a piece, I may also put it on hold to do another draft and address any valid feedback.

Writing is an ongoing and oftentimes lengthy process, but that’s only my take on it. I’m curious for my fellow writers: What does your process look like?

Posted in writing

Coping With Writer’s Block

It happens to almost every creative out there. Block. Writer’s Block is arguably the most famous and well known. It’s often presented as a lack of ideas but writer’s block can also take another form: lack of energy. You might have plenty of ideas, but no motivation to get them down.

Regardless of how it presents itself, the result is largely the same: your writing has ground to a practical stop. There are a variety of reasons behind a block. You might be stressed, exhausted, dealing with real life issues or perhaps you’re coming down with a heavy case of seasonal allergies. Perhaps you don’t know why. The why may not matter, but coping with it does.

Recharge. A lot of blockage might come from needing to recharge. This goes both for your healthy, and your well of ideas. Put the writing up for a week. Binge watch those awful shows you can’t resist. Take some time out of your day to do something for you. Treat yourself to a hot bath or shower, or that glass of wine you’ve been putting off because you don’t have a good reason. Relax and accept that it is what it is and that you’ll come back to it later. 

Check in with yourself. Almost all creative types—artists, actors, writers—have higher numbers of mental illness like anxiety and depression. The reasons behind that are a little murky, but the numbers speak for themselves. If you’re blocked, it might just be because your mental health is dropping. Check in with yourself and be honest. Anxiety and depression can do a lot worse damage than just dry up your creativity. You can take that from someone who has experience with anxiety. Check your health, both mental and physical.

Motivate yourself. Sometimes the biggest problem for a writer suffering from block is fear. Maybe we think we’re not good enough. Maybe we think we’ll be rejected. Whatever the case may be, we’re still fighting writer’s block. It might be an idea to set up a couple of prompts and spend ten minutes free writing to help you get moving again. Find a way to motivate yourself—be that through a sprint or through gentle encouragement. Some of us work well under pressure, but sometimes that pressure can make us crumple.

Change something. This might be your space or your routine. If you’re more of a plotter, throw your outline out the window. Find a random prompt and splash it down as the next sentence of your story. Build from it. If you’re a pantser, try sitting down and doing some light plotting to see what gets moving. If that doesn’t work, try moving your space around.

Find a cheerleader. If you’re finding it hard to get any writing done, don’t feel bad—you might just need a little more support! If you have a writer’s group you can turn to, ask if someone doesn’t mind being a cheerleader for you. This can range from an in-depth discussion of their favorite character, to reader comments on your current draft. If you don’t have a writing group, now might be a good time to get one. Writing in itself is often a lonely venture, and loneliness can make even our favorite tasks unenjoyable.

Posted in Exercises

Exercise: Writing Sprints

If you’ve read a few of my previous posts, you probably already know that sprints are one of my absolute favorite tools. They’re especially useful when you don’t have a lot of time to sit and write.

Sprints are easy to set up. Get a timer and set it for however long you like. Five, ten and fifteen minute sprints are ideal, but you can set longer sprints between twenty and forty-five minutes if you want (you may see these longer sprints referred to as ‘marathons’). Then, just sit and write as fast as you can.

The best part of a sprint is that you don’t have time to sit and think about word choice, ro sentence structure. The idea isn’t to get a good paragraph down, it’s strictly to get something down for later.

As an option: If you choose to, you can track to see how many words you can write in a given time. Start by writing your current word count down, and then doing a sprint. Mark down how many words you end up with, and subtract how many words you started with. The end result is how many words you’ve written during your sprint.

Sprints are great for friendly competitions as well. If you have a group, set a timer and go. Who can get the highest count? Who can work in the most puns in?