Saturday, 21 October 2017

The Art of Transmogrifying Character Notes

It’s no secret that character development is one of my all-time favourite parts of writing a novel. I’m also all too aware of the creative paralysis that takes over when you look at all your notes and think, “What the heck do I do with this? Does this character even make sense?”

The process can be a little slippery, it’s true, but you can make sense of all those notes with a bit of time and focussed thinking. Let’s find out how to weave all the wayward pieces into a cohesive whole!

How do you transform a schmozzle of notes into a fully realized character?  Step 1: Gather ALL your notes.  Step 2: Highlight any connections between characters.  Read on for Steps 3 and beyond! | Something Delicious

I prefer doing a hefty amount of character development before getting into the rough draft. I struggle to make any headway otherwise. If you prefer to do this sort of thing after your rough draft is finished, this process can work for you, too! All the steps remain the same; you’ll just have the benefit of having worked through some things in your rough draft already.

Whenever you do this, you’ll want to start by gathering all your character notes, and I do mean all: you can’t weave together a cohesive whole if you’re missing pieces from the get-go.

Before you move on, go through all the notes and highlight anything that has to do with more than one character, e.g. thoughts about their relationship, a common workplace, or a story event that impacts them both. Being able to look through your notes and see these interconnected pieces of information at a glance will help you untangle things.

A few bits of advice I’ll offer for these next steps:

  • Start with the most important characters and carry on to the supporting characters afterwards. If you make any significant changes or shifts, it’s better to make them with your major characters first and see how that trickles down to your supporting characters than the other way around. 
  • Don’t solely think the answers through in your head, only writing them down when you’re absolutely sure of them. I’ve been guilty of this and have lost some of my best ideas and strongest connections because I analysed them to death inside my head, sometimes for hours or even days. By the time I tried to write them down, I’d forgotten the best bits or, worse yet, gone around in so many circles that I was too dizzy to recall the brightest, earliest sparks. 
  • Sort these answers through on scrap paper rather than something more permanent. That will come later, but using scrap paper will free you up to think things through and make a mess, crossing things out and scribbling new ideas in. This might seem like it’ll make things more complicated, but this is one of those “it gets worse before it gets better” kind of things. 
  • Clean up as you go. Just like baking all those cookies over the holidays, life will be a lot easier if you cross out and recycle things (or delete and trash them, if you’ve gone the electronic route) as you’re going along rather than leaving it until the end. This is about smoothing, simplifying, and refining, and part of that is chipping away what doesn’t work or is no longer necessary. 

As always, feel free to tweak those tips or follow them verbatim (at least to begin with), whatever feels right to you. Now, pick up the notes for your first character and let’s get weaving!

What sticks out?

When you’re reading through your notes, is there anything that catches your eye and doesn’t quite seem to fit with everything else you’ve discovered about your character? It might be obnoxiously obvious or it might be something that you come back to a few times, trying to make excuses for it but never quite managing to pull it off.

The first thing to consider (because this won’t necessitate any changes, if it’s true!) is whether this isn’t a mistake, but rather just them being human. We all have a contradiction or two in the way we live our lives. No one makes perfect sense. Unless it’s just way too jarring, consider the possibility that you don’t need to change your character at all, and that this adds to their wholeness rather than taking away from it.

Possibility number two is that you just need to make a subtle tweak for it to work. For example, if your character regularly bakes up a storm but they have a minimum wage job, maybe they’ve made a point of budgeting for ingredients and keep one of their more costly guilty pleasures to a minimum.

If you can’t leave it be and you can’t tweak it, this could be a case of finding a way to smooth out the rough edges, perhaps by forging a connection to the character’s past or one of their influential relationships. For example, if your character flits between as many hobbies as Kirk had jobs on Gilmore Girls (62!), it wouldn’t ring true if they were stellar at all of them. Being incredibly skilled in a few among the many, however, could be the result of innate talent, a holdover from a childhood obsession, or a boomerang effect (that one hobby that keeps resurfacing over and over).

If nothing feels right about this characteristic or if it’s redundant, you may just need to let it go. We do a lot of brainstorming and experimentation when creating a character, so it’s not surprising that some things just don’t mesh. If you’re reluctant to discard it for good, keep it for another character, in this story or a different one.

How does this character connect to and deepen the story?

Part of creating a cohesive whole for your character is understanding their connection to the story. What’s the theme (or themes) of your story? Which aspects of your character reflect or enhance the theme? What do the events of the story and the unfurling of this theme bring out in your character?

Knowing at least a little about these resonant moments ahead of time is a big help when it comes to developing a well-rounded character and writing a novel!

One classic example is Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and her exploration of first impressions (to the point of it being the original title!). Looking at Elizabeth Bennet alone, we see not only how inaccurate her first impressions are but how damaging those mistaken impressions can be, leading her to trust someone who doesn’t deserve it and badmouth someone who deserves better. When she finally learns of Wickham’s deceit, realizes what she’s done and how poorly her first impressions served her (“How despicably have I acted!”), it’s a big step towards her developing maturity: “Till this moment, I never knew myself.”

Do you have a Mary Sue or Gary Stu on your hands?

We can sometimes be a little too angelic when it comes to creating characters, especially the protagonists. When you’re reading through your notes, watch carefully for signs that the character is always in the right, that you’ve created saintly justifications for everything they do, or that you hesitated or held back somewhere.

If your character feels too good to be true, don’t panic! You don’t need to start chucking flaws at their head. Look back at what you already know and consider:

  • Where misunderstandings could occur 
  • Who challenges them 
  • Which traits or preferences could come into conflict 
  • What they think they know but don’t truly understand 

To give you an example, I was talking to a friend of mine about Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, particularly Harry’s less-than-noble demeanour and angry outbursts. I remember, at the time it came out, a lot of people were unhappy with that. They felt like it wasn’t the same person they’d come to know and love. They felt like he was whining and being a stereotypical angsty teenager.

My friend and I, on the other hand, were on the same page. Harry had borne so much tragedy and responsibility on his shoulders up to that point, it felt inevitable that he would, at some point, break. If he hadn’t, then yes, it would have reaffirmed his status as the noble, long-suffering hero, but it would have taken a step away from the fact that he was a relatable young man, struggling to cope with yet another horrific loss on top of everything else he’d already faced.

Do what’s right for your story but, first and foremost, do what’s right for your character, even if it feels uncomfortable at times. Your story will thrive as a result.

Distinguish between “crucial” and “nice to know” information

One of the most helpful distinctions you can make when looking at a pile of notes is between what’s crucial information and what’s simply “nice to know.”

Crucial information depicts your character’s essence: who they are and how they interact with the world. This information informs their presence in the story, how their relationships form and evolve, what kind of story you’re telling, and so on. Put simply, you don’t have a story without this information.

The nice-to-know information, on the other hand, won’t make or break your story on most levels. The show will go on, whether or not we know about your character’s fascination with cracks in the sidewalk (unless you’re Steven Moffat, in which case all bets are off).

That doesn’t mean you should toss the nice-to-know tidbits. Far from it. The nice-to-know information is one of the most bountiful treasure chests you can plunder when you’re struggling to add colour to a scene. If your character loves to sew, for example, they could be cleaning gunk from their sewing machine, have bits of thread on their clothes, or rolling their shoulders to relieve an ache in their upper back, all while the main events of the scene are carrying on.

The more consistent you are with these details, the more cohesive your character feels to the reader.

Don’t tamp down your inquisitive nature!

Questions may very well pop into your mind as you read through the notes on your character. Ignore these at your peril, as you’re likely to forget them if they’re not written down straightaway. Write the questions down, along with any initial thoughts that occur to you. If you’re big on planning things out ahead of time, you may want to chase down the answers to these questions now. If you prefer to figure these things out as you, leave them be and refer back to them once in awhile as you write, unless it feels like something that could lead to cataclysmic insights.

Rinse and repeat for any other characters

You can use the same process we just explored, from start to finish, for the other main characters and supporting characters. Once you’ve pared things down, look at the whole cast with these questions in mind:

Question #1

Do you understand the connections between these characters?

For example, you may know that one of the supporting characters is your protagonist’s younger brother, but how much do you know about their sibling dynamic? How much of this dynamic has been shaped by events in adulthood as opposed to carrying on from when they were kids? Would they consider themselves to be friends?

Question #2

Are there any minor or major connections between these characters you’ve missed or want to build on?

For example, if you have two characters who despise each other but both feel a bond with animals, they could be thrown together in a volunteer situation at an animal shelter.

Question #3

Have you discovered anything with one character that contradicts what’s come up with another? This could be something to smooth out or it could be something to build on (as in the example below).

Say you’re writing a story about how you need to be your best possible self before you can have a healthy relationship with anyone else, and this is the journey your main character undertakes. Now, imagine there’s another character - her best friend, say - who’s been in rough shape for a long time, never able to get her act together … and then she meets someone. Someone who’s that little bit steadier than she is, who seems to be bringing about positive change in her life.

You could make a point by having these characters break up and seeing her fall apart, then piece herself back together once she’s single. That fits pretty well with the story you’re trying to tell, and it would be a good cautionary tale for your main character.

But what if that doesn’t feel right? What if every way you try to break them up feels contrived? What if you allow them to stay together, let this subplot unfold the way it’s trying so hard to, and explore the possibilities it brings up instead? Things like “maybe it’s less about the source of the inspiration and what we do with it instead” and “how do we decipher who’s a positive influence on our lives and who brings us down.”

Same theme, new nuances.

Sometimes the conflicts between characters are bent out of shape and meant to be fixed with your authorly prowess, but sometimes they’re a fresh, crisp breeze coming through an open door, with the Universe and its rich creative possibilities beckoning from the other side.

Keep going!

Not going to lie, this process can be exhausting. I tend to spread it over a few days. You’ll know when it’s time to stop each day, because you’ll start going over the same information, over and over, looking for patterns that are stubbornly staying just out of sight. Don’t overdo it! Stop when you need to stop.

The flipside of that, though, is not to stop the entirety of the process too soon (unless it’s just not jibing with you, which is a different matter - you need to do what works for you). Don’t stop until you’ve gone through all the notes. If you need to leave something unanswered, that’s fine, but make a choice to do that; don’t do it just because it feels easier.

Feeling stuck? Call in your writing buddies! You could even share the steps and have a writing date, encouraging and brainstorming with each other until you’ve reached the end, no scrap of paper left unturned. You could also call on your partner, a friend, or reach out in the comments below. Let’s help each other to the finish line! \^-^/

Remember to keep crossing things out as they’re no longer useful or become redundant. If you rewrite something on a different piece of paper or document to clarify it or incorporate new information, cross out/delete the old version.

When you’ve finished, you should have:

  • no duplicate information, unless it applies to more than one character 
  • no glaring gaps or inconsistencies that are better resolved before you start writing the story 
  • a “Things to Investigate” list for any questions or dilemmas that haven’t been resolved and don’t need to be just yet 

Refine and record

Now for one of the best parts, especially if you’re an organization enthusiast like me. You’ll need a system that’s ready to hold this information, whether it’s a story bible, a bullet journal (my own preference), Scrivener, or something else entirely. Whatever it is, the main thing is that it’s (1) in one defined spot and (2) categorized, first by character and then by the type of information.

With your information receptacle at the ready, take things one character at a time. Start transcribing what you’ve learned over to this more permanent space. Do this in a way that suits your system, but for me, this looks like starting with the crucial information, such as their:

  • name 
  • gender and approximate age 
  • background 
  • evolution 
  • priorities 
  • motivation 
  • relationships 
  • appearance 
  • speech patterns 

And anything else that’s come up and is vital to the telling of the story. One of my main characters is passionate about cooking, for example, and it’s a big part of her journey, so I might add a section to describe the kind of food she cooks, how the kitchen looks when she’s done with it, how she learned to cook in the first place, and what it means to her.

Next, add the appropriate tidbits to the “Nice to Know” and “Things to Investigate” lists. Remember, “Nice to Know” is something like the fact that your character is miserable without a cup of French press coffee in the morning, a finer detail that doesn’t have to make its way into your story but makes it more colourful when it does. “Things to Investigate” is something like “the main character’s younger sister resents their promotion at work, but why,” an open loop that doesn’t dramatically change the course of the story but needs to be woven in regardless, once you know the answer.

Keep transcribing and deleting things from your scrappy notes (physical or electronic), one character at a time, until there are no notes left to transmogrify. Leave a little bit of extra room for new discoveries made while writing or revising your novel.

Now, all that’s left is to read back over what you’ve written. If you notice any errors or inconsistencies, those are easily fixed on a computer and nearly as easily fixed on paper, either with white-out or a quick footnote. What I hope you’re able to do for the most part, though, is sit back and enjoy. Imagine you’re a private detective and these are files on your desk. Read them through and get a sense of who they’ve become, individually and as a community. How cool does it feel to have unearthed these vibrant personalities?

Like most things in writing, the art of transmogrifying character notes can be studied and honed but never perfected, so revel in what you’ve accomplished: these characters will be your constant companions on the road ahead, and you’re that much closer to being able to convey the heart of their story.

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

The Magical Mayhem of Rough Drafts

During the very first of the Tea Party Chronicles, we talked about the magical mayhem of working on the rough draft of a story. Everyone was full of helpful advice, and I was delighted to share some of the things that have been working for me, too. Some of the highlights were:

  • knowing your first and last lines before starting the rough draft
  • some of us write better with music in the background, some without
  • a fun discussion about accuracy in historical fiction
  • the importance of character development, in everything from plotting to worldbuilding

We also explored how writing a rough draft is like sculpting from clay or painting on a canvas. We wouldn't expect perfection or even to see the finished image in our art straightaway, yet somehow we put pressure on ourselves if our rough draft doesn't feel up to snuff. Yikes!

There are a few more nuggets I’d love to share with you, so pull up a chair and let’s catch up!

A brief guide to the ups and downs of writing the rough draft of a novel, from a Tea Party Chronicles gathering. | Something Delicious

What to do when the rough draft grinds to a halt

Depending on how frustrated I am, I might set it aside and walk away for a while, play a video game, watch an episode of Heartland, or work on some administrative stuff. If I’m stuck but feel like the answer might be nearby, I try and logic it out, and/or brainstorm with my mum or my boyfriend, both of whom are awesome writers themselves.

“I don't force myself,” Emily L. Scott shared. “Instead, I take a break and do something else creative (like writing poetry or painting). Journaling usually helps me dig up what's stopping me from moving forward, and from there, I find I'm able to ease back into the story.”

“Generally, when I hit a wall in my drafts I will walk away from it and go to books and movies,” Eden S. said. “I will read/watch things in the genre I'm writing and I will analyze it and see if there are any ideas I can use in my writing.”

I was glad to see that none of us were forcing ourselves above and beyond the call of creative duty. Writing is sometimes hard work, but we have to be able to recognize the difference between feeling antsy and deepening frustration.

Must-haves for starting a rough draft

I know I’m ready to move from the prewriting to the drafting stage when I have:

  • a bit of appropriate music or background noise, e.g. Rainymood, one of the HDSoundI playlists on YouTube, or Lindsey Stirling
  • a solid sense of the characters and the dynamics between them
  • a feel for the plot and the story (including the main conflict)
  • a very general idea of the setting
  • an idea of what sort of elements I’m playing with ... e.g. the main character I’m writing about at the moment is incredibly talented in the kitchen, so I’m enjoying weaving food and cooking and baking into scenes, either in front and centre ways or just as a part of her everyday life

Some of the other things that came up were:

  • character profiles
  • notes about setting and magic rules
  • a theme
  • a firm idea where the story is heading

Over or underwriting a rough draft

While some people lean towards overwriting in rough drafts and slicing out the fluff in future ones, I’m the opposite. If I know my characters well and sort out a decent plot structure as I’m writing the rough draft, I can layer in and unveil more of the actual story and the colourful pieces and layers in subsequent drafts.

I try my darndest to sort out any major structural issues in the rough draft, though, because I don’t fare well with major rewrites. I can do line edits until the cows come home, and I enjoy enough aspects of the rough draft for it to feel manageable, but a rewrite feels like doing a rough draft all over again, and I struggle to get through one without it feeling tired and overwrought.

Motivation and rough drafts

The most helpful thing I’ve tried recently was a Twitter word sprint. I managed to write 800 words in 25 minutes, which was kind of crazy for me! O.o

This is also the part when we had to be careful not to slosh tea all over the table, because we got a little excited when the conversation shifted to our plans for NaNoWriMo. I’ve had hefty writing marathons before, but nothing like NaNo, so I’m bound and determined that this will be the year I bloody well stick to it! Nearly every past participant seems to agree that there’s little else like it for motivation and collectively focused energy in the writing world.

Helpful resources 

During the tea party, I mentioned a few blog posts that have been a huge help, as I've been tackling a new challenge in my rough draft and needing to relearn (or learn in a new way) certain writing concepts. I hope they'll clear things up for you, too!

There is a fair bit of overlap between a few of these articles, but that was a plus as far as I was concerned: what wasn't clear in the way one person wrote about a concept was soon clarified by someone else. Yay!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this peek inside our cozy get-together! If you’d like to partake of a cuppa in the future, you can learn more about the Tea Party Chronicles right here. The writers who attend are all wonderfully kind, supportive, and creative, so I know you’d fit right in.

In the meantime, I’d love to hear in the comments below about your own experiences in writing the rough draft of a story! What’s the hardest part, the strangest part, the best part?

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

How to Use a Writing Life Wheel

What is this magical tool that aids in bringing balance to the choppy seas of a writer's life?  Let's find out how a Writing Life Wheel can make all the difference in cultivating a life that supports your writing! | Something Delicious

While there’s merit to the “sit your butt down in the chair and WRITE!” sentiment, I’m a firm believer in crafting a life that’s supportive of your creativity.  How to go about that, though, especially when it feels like virtually everything needs work ... there’s the rub.

I’m somewhat of an organization and productivity geek, especially when it helps me live an even more creative life, so I’m always on the lookout for ways to hack through the brambles and clear the path for myself and the writers I work with.  One day, I stumbled on an oft-used tool of life coaches, a life wheel.  The more I researched, the more it felt like this could be a valuable tool for writers, so I set about adapting it and putting my own spin on it, until at long last the Writing Life Wheel emerged.
What is this magical tool that aids in bringing balance to the choppy seas of a writer's life?  Let's find out how a Writing Life Wheel can make all the difference in cultivating a life that supports your writing! | Something Delicious
A Writing Life Wheel is a visual representation of the parts of your life that connect to your writing - like your support network and your goals - and how satisfied you are in each, on a scale of 1 to 5.

One of the most important things is to fill out a Writing Life Wheel honestly.  If you fill it out according to where you wish you were or where you think you might be in a few weeks, rather than where you are right now, you won’t gain the valuable insights that you would otherwise.  Authenticity and, yes, some vulnerability is key.

If you’re a people pleaser, used to downplaying your struggles, or tend to be overly harsh on yourself, filling out the wheel is going to require kindness, understanding, and bravery on your part.  Have courage, creative soul!  No one has to see this wheel unless you want them to, so be as honest as you can.  If you feel like you’re kicking butt in some areas, own it!  Those areas shore up the foundation of your writing life and will help you fly.  If you feel like some areas are covered in giant seagull splots, it doesn’t make you a failure or an uncommitted writer.  It’s a hint of where to spend some time and mend some fences.

How does this help?

A filled-out Writing Life Wheel offers clues about what’s holding you back and what is or could be propelling you forward.  You can then go on to use this newfound wisdom to create a plan for bringing your life back into (relative) balance and sail the calmest creative seas possible.  The further I get in my own creative journey, the more I’ve realized how important it is to acknowledge strengths and weaknesses and develop an understanding that things are often in flux.

To give you an example of how the Writing Life Wheel works, let’s look at a portion of my own.

My personal satisfaction level with my support network at the moment is a 5 out of 5.  Between my mum, Ciaran, Emily, the lovely guests who attend the Tea Party Chronicles, and the connections I’ve made through social media, I feel incredibly lucky and supported and wouldn’t change a thing.  A little down the road, if I’m looking for a few more beta readers for my current work-in-progress, that might change to 4 out of 5 until I’ve made the right connections.  For now, though, a definite 5!

My schedule and routine, on the other hand, is currently more like 2 out of 5.  Some shifts have occurred in my life that necessitate a rethinking of my writing schedule and I haven’t quite made it happen, so I’m not writing as often as I’d like.  I am getting a good session in every few days, though, so this merits a rating of 2 in my mind, and it’s obvious where there’s room to improve.

Herein lies the magic of the Writing Life Wheel: by having each section set out clearly, I can draw connections and figure out how to mend the weak points by drawing on the power of the strong ones.

In this case, that could mean drawing on my support network to help me get back into a steady routine and schedule for my writing, maybe by:

  • doing word sprints together
  • having writing chats on a regular basis (the Tea Party Chronicles have been awesome for this!)
  • sharing my plans and reporting back on how they went
  • seeking reassurances that, yes, this is doable; yes, I've done it before; and yes, I can do it again (because we all need those reassurances from time to time)

See what I mean?  It’s much easier to create a life that supports your writing when things work in concert rather than acting as disparate entities.

How do you fill out a Writing Life Wheel?

The idea is to rate different areas of your writing life, as it stands now, on a scale from 1 (least satisfying) to 5 (most satisfying), and then use highlighters, crayons, coloured pencils, or your implement of choice to fill in the appropriate number of sections in the wheel.

To figure out how to rate an area, consider it with a few questions in mind:
  1. Does thinking about this area make me feel excited, content, or antsy?
  2. Does thinking about this area make me feel confident or lost?
  3. Is this area straightforward or confusing to me?
  4. Is this an area I find myself wanting to improve or seeking help with?
  5. How would this area need to look and/or feel for me to be completely satisfied with it?
Do your best not to pad your wheel with higher ratings to make it look better or downgrade ratings by being too hard on yourself. Trust your instincts.  Your wheel will shift and change over time, always with room for improvement and celebration!

These ratings must be based on your personal level of satisfaction with each of these areas.  It doesn't matter, for example, if the rest of your household thinks your writing area is a mess.  If it gets you excited to sit down and write, then your writing space is easily worthy of a 4 or 5 rating, no matter what anyone else thinks.

(Make sure to read to the end of this post for a blank copy of your very own Writing Life Wheel!)

What happens now?

There are all sorts of things you can do with a completed Writing Life Wheel, but these are a few of my favourites:

  • For each area, look at (1) how you rated it, (2) what’s working, and (3) what could be tweaked, what you’d like to try, what you could improve on, or what’s missing
  • Write down what surprised you as you filled in the wheel, if anything
  • Reflect on which area you’re most excited to work on and/or which area makes you break out in a cold sweat
  • If there’s someone with a great deal of insight and knowledge into your writing life, show them your completed wheel and see if they notice anything you’ve missed
  • Have a trusted writing friend complete their own wheel, and then have an open-minded, kind-hearted discussion on what comes up for each of you
  • Complete the wheel anew every six months to (1) look for patterns in what changes and what doesn’t, (2) figure out if anything feels stale, and (3) celebrate whatever progress you’ve made

Are you ready to fill out your Writing Life Wheel?

If you want to give this a try (and I hope you do!) click here to download a copy of your very own Writing Life Wheel.  If you don't have a Dropbox account, click "No thanks, continue to view" on the box that pops up.  You can then download the file by clicking on "Download" at the top right-hand corner of the screen.

Today, I'll leave you with a gentle nudge: once you've downloaded the wheel, print it out (or draw it out, if you don't have a printer) and fill it in as soon as possible!  It's best not to overthink it but to dive right in.  I've even included some sample questions for each section of the wheel to guide you along.

Have a wheely good time, and happy writing!
Handwritten signature that says "Victoria"

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Discovering the World's Best Writing Guide

What if the best writing guide you'll ever meet is in the room with you right now?  What if they could tell you which advice to follow and when to trust your own instincts?  Find out how to discover your strongest, most intelligent writing guide in this blog post. <3 | Something Delicious

Something that's been niggling at me quite often of late is the plethora of writing advice available to us, both online and off, and the quagmire of emotions surrounding that advice.  My latest Letter from the Burrow dove into this muddle headfirst, and I wanted to share it here with you, as well, because this is something I think every writer needs to hear.

Writing isn't something that we can learn from beginning to end and eventually discover we know everything there is to know.  There's always something we'll be unsure of or that feels new or that just doesn't seem to stick in our minds, no matter how hard we try.

With such an open-ended craft, it's no surprise that we can spend hours, days, or even weeks reading about writing and never actually writing.

What's just as bad is that, the more we read, the more we may start to doubt our own instincts.  Our creativity gets tamped down by all the rules and suggestions and "must haves" that we forget how to just sit down and let words spill onto the page.  We might even lose touch with why we're writing in the first place.

There's absolutely a place for writing advice beyond the scope of our own knowledge, but when we stop trusting what we do know and how we feel in our heart of hearts, we get into tricky scenarios.

For example ...

When you're working with an editor, there's a difference between looking at the red markings on the page and thinking,

Yowch!  Some of these feel a little off, but she's the professional, so I'll just go ahead and make all the changes ...

as opposed to thinking

Wow!  This is a bit painful, but most of these changes are going to bring my story even closer to the way I want it to come across, so I'll make those for sure and consider the rest.

When you hear about an upcoming writing workshop, there's a difference between thinking,

Oh, that sounds interesting!  I should really take that ...

as opposed to thinking

Hmm ... that's something I've been trying to work on and haven't had any luck.  I'm going to look into that workshop and see if it's a good fit.

Can you feel the difference?  One of those thoughts is reactive, perhaps leading us into a scenario that will cause overwhelm or even regret, while the other is measured and thoughtful, allowing us to channel intuition and past experience to figure out what our next step should be.

Finding the Right Help at the Right Time

My personal hope is that the resources I provide reach the writers who are looking for them at the time when they most need them, rather than add to the confusion and the chaos.

Ideally, any book or workshop or service you partake in within the wonderful world of writing won't make you dependent on it but will empower you to carry on, walking your own path; learning to trust your creative instincts and know what works and what doesn't; when you need outside help and when you need to keep things up close and personal.

That ebook on outlining worked wonders for your last book but is tying you into knots with this one?  Let it go.

Feeling the urge to find some outward accountability, but fearing being told that you're lazy and unmotivated?  To heck with that!  Do whatever you need to do to put that accountability system into play and then start writing so you have something to be accountable about.

Getting lost in character questionnaires and still have no idea who your character is?  Set aside all the blog posts and workbooks and just sit down with a piece of paper and ask them, "Who are you?"

Trust Yourself

There are no right answers.  No perfect strategies.

However, I do believe we know, deep inside, when we're procrastinating and when we genuinely need help.

Writing can be mind-boggling, and at best that's one of the coolest things about it; at worst, it's one of the biggest things that can stop us from moving forward.

Rather than looking at outside help as the enemy or as laziness or as a creative saviour, let's develop a relationship with it that has our own gut feelings and creative eccentricities and passion at the core.  When you really, truly need help, draw it into your orbit without shame or fear, get what you can from it, and then gently release it.

Trust yourself.  Trust your instincts.  Trust your creativity.

That trust will guide you home to the most incredible stories you'll ever write.

You are the best writing guide you will ever meet.

Is this easier said than done?  Some days yes, some days no.  If the gap between here and there feels wider than you're comfortable with, spend a few minutes with these questions and see what comes up.  They'll help you find more ease and bridge that gap.

When it comes to writing ...

... do I feel like a novice?  an old hand?  a beginner?  a guru?  a hack?  a hard worker?  Why do I feel this way?  When do I feel this way?  Have I always felt this way?

... which characters hold my attention more than others?  What is it about them I love?  Are there any common threads?

... how do I know what to write?

... when do I feel most content?

... when do I feel most confident?

... when do I feel most unsure?

... when do I feel powerful?

A Day to Write Without Walls

I hope today, if you have time to write, you'll spend a bit of time with the wisdom and knowledge you already possess.  There can be a beautiful sense of space and ease in writing with no outside forces at work: no prompts, no guidelines, nothin'.

If it feels strange or unfamiliar or even a little uncomfortable, that's okay.  Doodle on the page or watch your mouse cursor move in lazy circles for a few minutes if it helps you relax.  Just spend a bit of time with yourself and your writing and see what happens.

Happy writing, creative soul!