Right in the middle of NaNo this past November, I signed up with the Writer’s Digest online sign-up... thingie. Originally, I was looking for an article that I wanted to share with my growing NaNo circle, something about 10 Writing Habits and why they were good or bad or both. I had read the article while at a client’s office and thought it would be great. Unfortunately, the online structure of Writer’s Digest meant I not only had to purchase the entire back issue but, in order to be given the chance to purchase the issue, I had to subscribe to the magazine. At the time, that was too much work and a little more money that I was good for, so that idea fell into the cracks.
However, as a direct result of this trip through the nooks and crannies of Writer’s Digest, I ended up on their email list and boy, do they have a lot to say. I receive anywhere from one to three emails a day from their website, on everything from tips for writing, editing and getting published to web conferences* on different ways to turn writing into a lucrative career NOT via a book deal. Did you know that people will pay you to write corporate memos for a living? Yeah, neither did I.
Now, like many of you, I haven’t written a single word since NaNo (except for those times when I stop dead in the grocery store to jot down a plot idea on my phone. It annoys my boyfriend to no end. The stopping, not the writing). After Jenn surprised me with an email telling me it was my week to blog (charts, what charts?), I decided my best bet was see what I could dig up out of the emails and pretend like I actually planned for this. To that end, I present: 6 Simple Ways to Reboot Your Writing.
Oh, you’re still here. What, you want me to write about the article about writing? What is this I don’t even - fiiine. Here is the 6 Simple Reboot tips as they apply to me. For putting this much effort out there, I expect some comments on how they apply to all of you, even if you just do one of six. Anyone doing all six obviously has as much free time as I do and probably deserves some kind of prize.
1. Your New Year artist statement: You do have one, don’t you?
I didn’t have one before reading this article/writing this blog but here is the one that I made up on the spot:
When I began writing, it was because I had all of these ideas in my head and they never stopped and I needed to do something with them. To me, that is my creative writing: a release for all of the ideas that build up and up and up and give me headaches until I give them a space to suck up paper/hard drive. As a result of all of the creative writing, my professional writing is superb and gives me the confidence in my daily work doings to think that maybe, just maybe, I’m not a complete failure.
2. Your current regimen: Still working?
I keep trying to tell myself I will have a writing schedule. I will have a time specifically set aside for writing when I will ignore the siren calls of Skyrim and Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword and just write. This never happens but for the handful of times it actually has and man, was it ever effective. NaNo proved to me that I felt so, so much better when I had words on the page than when I had promises to myself that I would put words on the page. There will always be excuses but there comes a time when you have to suck it up, buttercup, and get to doing. For me, that time will be... likely February.
3. Your hardware, software: Time for an upgrade?
Scrivener vs Word = no contest. Scriv was a fastastic tool for my NaNo this year and allowed me to write in workable chunks instead of feeling like I needed to keep continuing the same plot path because it was all in the same file. I sincerely hope I haven’t missed out on being able to get the discounted copy (in February) but I might just pay the full price regardless. It’s worth it.
4. Writing extracurriculars: Are you missing out?
Now, the article talks specifically about outside learning tools, such as writing conferences and web conferences*. To me, this is more about building an outside circle of people to do the local event planning for you and take you from your comfort zone. Your comfort zone is likely a lot like mine - a lot of distractions and empty promises (see #2). Getting out to write ins (while also full of distractions) creates a space where you’re encouraged to write because everyone else is writing. A location change can also inspire new wiggles in your writing - new locations, new ideas, new characters.
5. Your support network: Is it in place?
Uh, I think so. You’re all here, right?
Sometimes it can be hard to get support from the people we feel like should support us most. In high school, when my urge to write was really taking off, my mom was less supportive than I would have liked. It wasn’t until I started looking into colleges and the writing opportunities there that she actually got on the bandwagon - and then promptly fell back off when I switched majors. To that end, I don’t really go to her for support on my writing anymore, though I do go to her for other things. Sometimes we need to build our support networks out of different people for different things to get the support we really need.
6. Day planners and deadlines: Have you mapped out a path to success?
Deadlines are actually amazing motivators but as a procrastinator, deadlines also represent the least of my ability. When I wait until a deadline, I rush and when I rush, it sucks and when it sucks, I’m frustrated and suddenly less motivated to take on another project. My push to get 20,000 words out in the last four days of NaNo left me with a novel I will probably never touch again. There is a lot to be said for doing even a little bit of plot mapping. It keeps you on a track - and yes, I even mean you, members of the Illustrious League of Pantsers.
Also - This blog isn’t due until Friday and it’s only Wednesday and I’M DONE ALREADY. Deadlines be damned!
All right, your turn. How does your writing need a reboot?
*I hate the word webinar. It’s an atrocity.
Wednesday, January 18, 2012
I've been writing consistently since I was fourteen. I am now twenty six, and through my years of writing short stories and novels, I have learned a few things. I don't consider myself an expert in any way, but you don't do something for twelve years without learning some things. One of these wonderful bits of insight is that writers are insane.
How so? You're really asking me how so? If you're a writer, you should already know how insane we are, but I'll humor you and fill you in on this little secret.
Most writers are naturally creative people, and many writers have different ways of working out their ideas. Some people outline obsessively. I'm talking about every single detail of their story, it's outlined in some way. Other people talk out the ideas that they have in their heads to work everything into a coherent thought. This is often done out loud with a lot of pacing involved (I'm in this group of writers). Some writers stare at the blank page for hours waiting for something to happen, this either leads to brilliant stories...or a headache and a glass of red wine. Some just write until something good flows out, then they sift through the mud looking for the diamond that they know is there. There are about a million other ticks that writers have, but you get the picture, so I'll leave it at that.
Does any of that sound sane to you? Over and over again doing the same thing? Keep on writing, and talking, and brainstorming until you finally have something to put down on paper? No! It's insane. However, what comes out of all the insanity, obsessing, and quirks is a story, and a story is about as normal as normal can be. People have been telling stories since the dawn of time...well, maybe not the first people, not much to tell....
First man: “So yesterday I realized I existed.”Second man: “...and?”
First man: “That's it.”
Second man: “Lame story, dude!”
First man: “Lame what now?”
Stories have always been around in some form or fashion. One of the most important bits of advice I can offer people who tell me they want to write a book is this: Tell a story. It doesn't have to be an epic tome of grandeur, but make sure there's a story to follow. Reach into the insanity that is the creative mind and pluck out a beginning, a middle, and an end, then craft them into a good plot. Look for some interesting characters or creatures. Create a world to set it in, whether it's downtown New York, an alien planet, London in 1743, or a Middle Earth knockoff. Next, let your plot, characters, and world drive the story. Let go, and let the insanity take over. Write!
If you have a bunch of creative characters in a fascinating world, but no story, then your writing is going to be dull and boring. No one will want to read it because nothing is happening. The most interesting man in the world is still a boring person unless he's doing something, or something is happening to him. Something needs to happen and the characters need to engage in the world that they live to experience the story they are in.
A story is more than words on a page or screen. A story is an experience. Readers need to walk with you as you show the events that take place. They need to see it, feel it, smell it, taste it, and touch it. They need to bond with it, and feel like they're going to walk away with something when they reach the last page.
To you, the writer, it's insanity, especially the creating and writing part, but to the reader, it needs to be a story. Through the insanity, the story comes out. And let's face it, the love of stories is why we enjoy writing in the first place.
Sunday, January 8, 2012
The year has barely snaked into our lives and we had our first little get together with new members invited. It was a great meeting and having new blood makes for a new and interesting set of stranger friends. The December 2011 challenge for current members was to write a letter to the new members letting them know why they joined our group and what it's meant to them. Here is mine:
Dear 2012 Write On Newbies:
Being one of the co-creator’s of Write On, I helped start the group when the realization that my Nanowrimo socializing was going to end with the ending of November. In good ole fashion conspiracy style, Liz and I conjured up a list of people who brightened our days with their wit and conversation. I really wanted to keep laughing with a bunch of nerdy weirdos like myself. My ulterior motive was to keep up the idea of Nanowrimo, you know, the idea of writing. I planned to use these social gatherings as a way of keeping me going with writing and forcing me to be faithful to my hobby.
What I got out of the group in the last year is first and foremost a bunch of nerdy weirdo friends who make me laugh till I have an asthma attack. No lie. Everyone in this group is unique and interesting and I have gotten to know some great people. We only meet once a month and that’s about the only time we talk, but I can see why this silly group is a group of writers. There is some real creativity in those noggins. This group has also helped fuel my own creativity. Admittedly, we have been terrible about that whole writing part but the fun we have has more than made up for it.
I’m very excited to include our newest members to the house of Write On. All my jokes will be new to someone, all our stories will be new to someone, and maybe we’ll behave long enough to write for at least fifteen minutes. I welcome you newbies and can’t wait to call you veterans of our group. I hope Write On continues to write and laugh on and on for years to come.