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!

Posted in General

Self-Motivation

Ghost writers notwithstanding, there’s very little chance that someone is going to come along to write and edit your story for you. If you want to tell a story, you’ll have to motivate yourself to both get it written and edited.  The question is then how do you motivate yourself?

Want. The most basic part of motivation to do something is a desire—and if you’re reading this trying to figure out how to turn that desire into actual motivation, you’ve got a good start already. If it helps, take a moment to write a sentence about that desire. What do you want? Tack it up somewhere you can see it when you need a reminder.

Schedule time. It’s so, so easy to overload your schedule with other responsibilities and things you want to do. Instead of letting those things encroach on your time, put it down in your calendar to give yourself time for working on your story. At a minimum, try for an hour three times a week.

Limit distractions. I know, I’m guilty of it too. I think I’ll just check my email real quick and then then next thing I know it’s been three hours and I’m eight videos deep on YouTube. Distractions are the worst time leeches. Whatever you find necessary to do, limit your distractions. That might be leaving your phone in another room, or even turning your internet off temporarily.

Set goals. You already know what you want, so turn it into a goal. Remember that goals should be clear. Specificity makes it easier to see yourself progressing towards that end goal. Try ‘writing fifty-thousand words by the end of the next year’ versus ‘write a book.’ One of those is clear and well-defined, giving you a way to measure it and a deadline to get it done by.

Start small. This is a partial caveat to the above. You’re not going to sit down in an day and write the New York Times Bestseller. The insane typing speed you’d need to make that plausible would break your computer. Instead of breaking that, break your big goal down into smaller ones. Pick the smallest possible goal and start with that one. It gets easier to build larger habits out of smaller ones. Once you’ve gotten into a habit, the motivation to get it done comes naturally.

Track progress. Tracking your progress does two things. One, it lets you see when and where you do the best. Because you can see how your progress fluctuates over time, you’ll be able to adjust your schedule once you know that you work better in the mornings over the evenings. Second, being able to see your progress grow over time also feeds your motivation by giving you something to represent the effort you’re putting in.

Reward yourself.  The large disclaimer to this one is that it won’t work for everyone. You might however, find it useful to give yourself a small reward (such as a small treat or something else) for completing your smaller goals. This way you begin associating completing each task or goal with enjoyment, which in turn makes it easier to get started on the next one.

What are your favorite motivational tactics? Let me know in the comments!

Posted in Exercises, writing

Editing Worksheets

Editing is probably one of the hardest parts of the entire writing process. Once you’re through the effort of writing a rough draft, you then have to pick it apart to find the parts that aren’t working and to make them better. It might be hard to do that, especially when you’re still in the honeymoon phase of just having finished a rough draft. To celebrate the end of NaNoWriMo, I’m including some of the worksheets I use when starting my editing process. Hopefully one of these gives you a good place to start and helps you through the next step of the journey!

Keep in mind that writing—including editing—is a hugely personal and diverse process for each writer. What works for your favorite author may not work for you. Conversely, stories can also throw  Try lots of different things.

Worldbuilding Questions Packet. I’ll often use this as way to help flesh out and kickstart any necessary worldbuilding when my setting feels flat. You don’t necessarily need to answer every question, but having a general idea can help find places where I need to spend a little more time developing the setting, or can highlight interesting conflicts I haven’t explored yet.

The Main Plot. Based off the classic pyramid plot structure, this gives a good overview of the main plot points and tensions in the draft. It can be a good starting point before getting into a more detailed outline, especially when I have a story that needs heavy restructuring in the plot.

Conflict and Event. Similar to the above, Conflict and Event can be used to see how the main and subplot(s) are playing off each other. I have it set up for three conflicts (a main and two subplots) but you can ignore the third if you only need two.

Character Motivations. I’m firmly in the camp of ‘characters make the story’. Character actions and reactions create a plot, and the reason behind their actions and reactions all comes down to motivation. This helps get beyond long-term and short-term goals and into their core values.

Where will you start your editing?

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Psst! Patrons also get an additional three worksheets, one for character arcs, one for subplots and one for more worldbuilding. Check out my Patreon to find these!