Showing posts with label rough drafts. Show all posts
Showing posts with label rough drafts. Show all posts

My Writing Toolkit: The First Adventure

Welcome to the first installment of My Writing Toolkit, where I share my efforts to strengthen and galvanize my writing, including real samples of my own rough drafts – both before and after! These adventures, for the foreseeable future, are largely intended to improve the quality of my prose rather than focus on big-picture, structural issues.

Why do this on a rough draft, when some of this may change or vanish altogether in future drafts? Why not just wait until later?

Three reasons!

What to Do After NaNoWriMo: 9 Steps to Take

Another year, another NaNoWriMo! If you're one of the hundred thousand-plus writers who participate, you’re likely familiar with the duelling qualities of chaos and accomplishment that accompany you through the month ... and equally familiar with the post-NaNoWriMo slump.

You may feel exhausted, out of touch with how it feels not to be galloping towards a daily word goal with a global community cheering you on.

What's a writer to do?

How to Have an Amazing NaNoWriMo

With NaNoWriMo underway, and perhaps the early excitement and momentum beginning to fade, now is the perfect time to ponder how to approach such a massive writing challenge.

“I know how to do that, silly muffin,” you might say. “Sit your butt down every day for 30 days in a row and write exactly 1,666.6 words per day, even as your life crumbles around you and the story you’re writing goes in five billion different directions and you never want to see it again once you’re finished. Voila! NaNoWriMo!”

While you're absolutely welcome to approach it this way, I think there might just be a better path, don't you?

How to Overcome Writer's Block in a Unique New Way

Have you found yourself dreading your writing time of late? Maybe sitting down diligently but watching the clock and feeling secretly relieved when it's over? Lying awake at night, doubting your abilities as a writer and wondering if this is a sign you should just give up on your creative dreams?

Not so fast, creative soul. Before you take one step further in that direction, I need to tell you a story.

A Peek Into How I Organized My Work-in-Progress

The last time I spoke about decluttering and organizing, I shared what inspired the process and said "your decluttering success story can be a story of coming home. Coming home to yourself, to your creativity, and to what makes you happiest."

What I haven't shared until now is exactly how I did it; how I transformed a mess of old notes and drafts, scattered this way and that, into an inspiring, organized system that sparks creativity.

The Importance of First Lines for Storytellers

Say the average length of a novel runs around 80,000 words. Contained in those 80,000 words are likely thousands of sentences. How important could one line out of thousands possibly be?

When it comes to first lines, I think you'll find they're nearly as important as successfully pitching the One Ring into the fiery depths of Mount Doom (or, to be a little less dramatic, as important as having matching seam allowances when piecing a quilt or wearing a pair of jeans that don't squash the life out of you during a long car journey), but let's explore that theory, shall we?

Behind the Scenes of a Longstanding Writing Routine

Have you ever noticed that writers have a tendency to waffle on about writing routines?

Firstly, let me be clear that I love waffles, especially the ones from West Coast Waffles, or, better yet, the best one I ever ate at Suite 88, a chocolatier in Montreal.

As you might imagine, waffling on is one of the most positive associations I could make with writing routines, and for good reason: a well-established writing routine is AMAZING.

Why is it amazing, you ask?

How to Develop Your Writing Voice

"Look, talent comes everywhere, but having something to say and a way to say it so that people listen to it, that's a whole other bag. And unless you get out and you try to do it, you'll never know. That's just the truth."

Jackson Maine, A Star is Born

A writer’s voice: hard to pin down, impossible to do without.

One of the easiest ways to describe "voice" as a concept is this: if you were given a stack of, say, fifteen books that you hadn’t read before, by five different authors, and the titles and authors’ names were invisible, you could likely still sort them by author.

Why? Because one of the hallmarks of a skilled author is a distinctive voice. It’s there in the way they form sentences, in the vocabulary they use, in the tone of the story, in the themes they depict and the subject matter they choose.

How to Write Descriptively with Detail Clusters

Have you ever looked back on a scene you’ve written and wondered why it feels a bit ... generic?

You’ve developed amazing characters. You’ve crafted a fascinating plot. It flows, but something is missing.

The missing ingredient might just be detail.

How to Nurture the Heart of a Story

As writers, we’re not just writing monologues about the joy of a perfect pie crust. We’re also trying to convey abstract concepts - like love and hope and despair - to our readers, so they can truly understand the heart of the story and feel its truth.

What is the heart of a story, though?

The Magical Mayhem of Rough Drafts

During the very first of the Tea Party Chronicles (a virtual writing salon), 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!

The Writing Secrets Hidden Within Mass Effect

One of my favourite science fiction stories of all time is not a book or a movie or a TV show. It’s a video game trilogy by the name of Mass Effect. This is a series that’s incredibly fun to play not just because of the game mechanics, but because the characters feel like real people and the universe feels rich and dynamic. As a writer, playing (and replaying) this game holds even more appeal: as I navigated the Normandy amongst the stars, I was unlocking valuable lessons about fiction writing.

4 Ways to Cut Fluff and Boost Conflict in Your Writing

G'day, chickadees! I'm so excited to welcome Abria Mattina to our cozy corner of the internet. Let's pull up a chair and see what she has to say about cutting the fluff from our writing, shall we?

Writing fluffy prose is a lot like wandering around an empty parking lot at 3 a.m. It’s pointless and often makes you feel stuck. It’s unnecessary padding; an authorial whim that adds words without adding value to the reader’s experience of the story. Fluff must die.

7 Ways to Court Your Muse

So I hear things are getting serious with you and your muse! You’re getting together more often, things feel “right,” your writer friends refer to you as a unit rather than two disparate entities ... it’s a wonderful feeling, isn’t it? Well, listen up, because here’s where it gets tricky. When the fairy dust wears off, and everything you two do stops seeming sparkly and wonderful just because you’re in love, things are gonna get real, and life is going to happen, and it’s way too easy to stop having that lovin’ feeling. I’ve got your back: follow these steps, and you’ll be able to weather the hard times like a seasoned pro.

14 Easy Ways to Bring Your Scenes to Life

You know that feeling when your writing starts to just get thin? Like if it was a three-dimensional being, it would be so insubstantial it would just faff about and never get anything remotely interesting or useful done?

Yeah. I think most of us have written scenes like that. And it can get even worse during NaNoWriMo, when you’re pushing yourself to meet your daily word count, and you’re running out of steam and getting discouraged because you’re not sure what to say and oh my gosh what am I going to do, I’m never going to finish this, and I may as well just quit now, there’s no way I can reach this word count by the end of the day, let alone 50,000 by the end of the month (or whatever your goal is).

*takes deep breath, in and out*

Too many of my writing sessions have looked like this: pushing myself to meet a self-imposed deadline and getting down on myself because my writing is getting thinner and thinner by the minute.

We need easy ways to jazz up a scene, to beef it up a little without having to throw a dragon into the mix (though you could do that, too). If you’re suffering from writer’s block, pick one of these ideas, throw it at the page, and see if it sticks. Worst case scenario, you and your character will have fun trying!

Sharing Your Work-in-Progress Without Fear

I was recently tagged for the 7/7/7/7 challenge. Put simply, if you want to participate (you're by no means obligated) you're to flip to the seventh page of your work-in-progress, count down to the seventh line on the page, and share the next seven lines. And then invite seven other writers to share their work, too.

Honestly? I had mixed feelings when lovelies Lucy Flint and Nicole Clark tagged me. There was an audible "squee!" of excitement, but when reality set in moments later, my stomach clenched with fear and nerves. How could I put my unpolished work out there, even a smidgen of it? People would judge my worth as a writer, my abilities as a coach, by what they saw. Every rough spot, every awkward moment would be a mark against me. First impressions are important, I thought. What if sharing a snippet of my rough draft changed things irrevocably?

Why We Resist Change and What We Can Do About It

The last time a new opportunity surfaced for you, did you welcome it with open arms? Turn it away? Approach it with a healthy dose of caution? I face life with a pretty open mind but changes, even the ones I bring on myself, can still throw me for a bit of a loop, especially when there's a risk involved. And let's face it, there's almost always risk attached, because change usually means leaving a comfort zone, and leaving your comfort zone is scary stuff.

To clarify: change can be risky without being dangerous or detrimental to your well-being. It's important that we know this because our mind is going to try and tell us that it's NOT TRUE, that this is risky and bad and we shouldn't do it.

When we follow through on the change, good stuff can happen. Good stuff like:

  • growing a tomato plant on your patio for the first time and receiving one perfect tomato
  • navigating Montreal by yourself and discovering you can do it without being lost for too long
  • going swing dancing with a friend when you've only ever been teased for your dancing, and having it be the most incredible experience that opens up a whole new hobby for you

I could have, and sometimes did, make excuses for why I wouldn't do any of those things ("I kill plants!" .... "I only speak un petit peu de French!" ... "I can't dance!") and life would have been fine, but I feel so much richer for the things I've done than the things I haven't. I do have my share of regrets ... things I've given up or let pass by when I felt that ugly resistance surface in my mind. It's insidious, isn't it? Telling you all the reasons why you shouldn't do something, drowning out the reasons you should. Ugh.

This is something I still struggle with, talking myself out of things or just letting them drift away, but I don't want to do that anymore. I read a wonderfully inspiring post on this just the other day. I want the "I did it/I tried that!" pile to outweigh the stack of regrets.

This is one of the reasons I love to read, both fiction and non-fiction: I see people taking risks, and it reminds me that I can do that, too; that I can push through the muck and make it through, and have a really good story on the other end, and maybe more than a story.

Yesterday I finished reading Barbara Delinsky's Sweet Salt Air. I'll do my best not to spoil it, but there's a character who's gotten stuck in a comfort zone - albeit a beautiful one - and is reluctant, sometimes terrified, to step outside of it. To say any more would spoil the ending, so I'll just tell you I was crying as this all came to a head. Seeing someone face that fear, whatever the outcome, is powerful.

So what do we do about this resistance to change and risk?

Step 1 | Identify the culprits

So you know how we're always telling that nagging voice in our head, the one telling us how and why we can't do things, to take a hike? We're about to throw it a bone. Give it a cup of tea, tell it to get comfortable, because you've got some questions and you need answers.

"That change I want to make, the risk I want to take: why shouldn't I do it? Tell me again, I don't think I heard you the first time."

You want all the dirt, all the reasons why you shouldn't do this.

Maybe you want to start a garden but every plant you've ever owned has died and you only have a teeny tiny patio.

Maybe you want to write a novel but you've only ever written short stories.

Guess what? That nagging voice just gave you exactly what you need to take on that risk like Wonder Woman herself.

Step 2 | Break it down

What we need to do now is take the "you can't do this because" and turn it around.

You don't have a lot of outdoor space and you kill plants. What's the solution? Get a few small-scale, resilient plants that need a minimum of care to thrive.

So the longest thing you've written was 5,000 words long. That was doable, right? If you're writing a 50,000 word novel, you just have to do that ten times over!

Whatever it is you have to do, pick a start date, and make it soon. This week is good; tomorrow is awesome; today is even better, so you have little chance to come up with more reasons why you shouldn't do this (but if you do, just turn them around, like you did with the others)!

Step 3 | Get started

One of the hardest things about doing something new is getting started. That first step doesn't mean you have to see it through to the end but it's still a commitment, so we're going to make this as easy as possible.

Figure out what the very first step is you need to take, and then do it! Doesn't matter how small. This is your Day One task.

You can't have a garden without plants, so get ye to the garden centre! Humble yourself: tell the employees exactly what you want and that it needs to be easy care. Tell them you just want a few plants to spruce up your patio. Wrap them up, take them home, and voila!

Time to write that novel! Now, how long does it typically take you to write 5,000 words? Take that time, add a bit of a buffer (just a wee one, mind you!) for a learning curve, and plunk it in your planning tool of choice. Only allocate time for the first few chunks of 5,000 words at most, mind you! Don't schedule all 50,000 words just yet.

"The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing."

Walt Disney

I'm going to heed Mr. Disney's advice and stop talking so you can start doing. 😉 I hope you're starting to feel a tingle of excitement alongside your fear about launching yourself into that new project. Take the risk (it's totally worth it) and enjoy the utterly delicious experience of trying something new!

How I Wrote 10,000 Words in a Weekend

I've mentioned before how I wrote the final 10,000-ish words of my rough draft over the course of a weekend, something heretofore unheard of for me. I'm still a little disbelieving that it actually happened, but I have the printed pages to prove it! As I'm getting back into editing them this week, I want to share with you how I managed to do this, in hopes it'll help you bust through that unbelievably obnoxious end bit that seems to drag on forever and ever.