Showing posts with label the writer's life. Show all posts
Showing posts with label the writer's life. Show all posts

First Steps for New Fiction Writers

Setting off on a fiction writing journey can overwhelm even the most excited, steadfast new writers. How does one make that very first step?

What follows here is not the only way to begin, but it's one particular way, and one of the best things we can do when we're new to something is just decide to start. So now that you're here, on this page, I hope you'll give it a try! The world always needs more creative souls to nurture their imaginative inclinations. ✨

Think of the ideas that follow as guidelines rather than a step-by-step list to be strictly adhered to. The aim here is to help you set off on your journey, not load you down with a cartful of baggage right here in the prologue! Bound lightly along these stepping stones, try the ones that feel right, and before you know it, you'll have taken your first steps on a lifelong creative adventure.

Now, where to begin?

Ready for Writing Inspiration? Try Reviewing Your Own Novel!

There's no denying that some days, writing feels like an endless slog.

Plots that were humming along tangle as mercilessly as a pair of earbuds in your purse.

Characters set sail for parts unknown, determined not to reveal their secrets.

Every sentence starts to sound the same.

While there's no substitute for hard work or a nurturing rest, sometimes we just need some good ol' fashioned imagination to refresh our creative spirit!

And so today you're going to review your own story, with all the love and joy it would receive from the world's biggest fan of your books. This is a delightful exercise to hold onto and revisit whenever you're feeling creatively dispirited, to remind yourself of the potential and what's special in your work, whether you reread a review you've written before or write a new one each time.

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 Prepare for a Year of Writing

As fun as it is to improvise one's way through life, I can't deny that I love a good planning session, and planning helps this flighty Gemini pursue her passions diligently.

Sometimes that's a very structured process, with oodles of lists and spreadsheets and calendars. *swoons happily*

Other times, it's a process more like what I'm sharing today, clarifying and strengthening the foundations of a writing life to support something as ambitious (and rewarding) as a year of writing. We'll focus on some of the biggest areas that require love and care to best support your writing process.

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 Use a Writing Life Wheel

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.

Discovering the World's Best Writing Guide

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 Acorn Den 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.

Why It's Beneficial for Writers to Get Organized

When I was growing up, the visions of writers floating around in my mind were full of glorious chaos. They wrote notes on whatever paper/napkin/skin/piece of furniture was handy, had a pen in every room except the one they were in at the time, and were surrounded by precarious stacks of books.

As I got a little older and became a writer myself, I realized that … well … it’s not necessarily that far off from the truth. We’re a little more careful with our books, precious goods such as they are, but for many writers, chaos feels inextricably linked with creativity.

Bullet Journaling for Fiction Writers

Picture this: a magical notebook that collects your lists of character names, rough draft progress meters, and memorable feedback from readers all in one place. Imagine being able to organize it and add new things as you go, without needing to allocate perfectly spaced sections ahead of time. There’s even a special page that helps you find whatever you’re looking for in seconds.

This, my writerly friend, is the magic of a bullet journal.

Which Creative Season Are You In?

"Spring passes and one remembers one's innocence.
Summer passes and one remembers one's exuberance.
Autumn passes and one remembers one's reverence.
Winter passes and one remembers one's perseverance."

Yoko Ono

When it comes to writers, there aren’t many concepts that apply across the board. Some writers enjoy developing characters the most, others like creating intricate plots. Some writers work well at night, others in the morning. Some find it helpful to share their work-in-progress as they go, others prefer to keep it close until it’s pretty much finished.

One thing that can be said for most writers, though, is that creativity ebbs and flows in seasons.

How to Build a Creative Support Network

When we first think of becoming writers, we often think of it as a relatively solitary endeavor. We imagine ourselves holing up in the attic, pecking away on a typewriter, producing page after page in a kind of creative fervor, perhaps with an inquisitive mouse for company.

What our daydreams don’t usually include is a writing community. I’m not even talking about editors and agents and other professionals who help us bring our book to the masses. I’m talking about other writers.

At its core, there are three types of writers who make up your creative support network: mentors, peers, and mentees.

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.

Holiday Gifts for Writers

Feeling in a festive mood? I have a bounty of holiday gift ideas for writers that will knock your socks off. And if you’re a writer wondering what to give your friends and family, don’t worry, I’ve got you covered with some of these ideas, too. 😉

Gratitude for the Writer's Soul

I've been thinking a lot lately about how very blessed I am. While there are definitely things I'd like to change about my life (and am working on doing just that), there are so many things I'm thankful for, and it got me thinking about all the things we have to be grateful for as writers.

How to Honour (or Toss) Old Bits and Bobs of Writing

If you've been writing for any length of time, chances are you have some old story snippets laying around ... but what to do with them all?

This week, I was helping Mum sort through stacks of old paperwork and stumbled on a handwritten piece of a story, about half a page long. A paragraph into reading, my shoulders were tense and I was waiting for calamity to ensue, and then ...

I burst out laughing, the tension defused. Mum had pulled off one of the best reversals of tone, and false alarms, I've ever read.

Once our giggles faded, we started to wonder, what to do with it now? It's years old and has no connection to any of her current stories, but it's a nifty piece of writing and worth keeping.

Still. What to do?

We have a few options when we come across an old piece of writing.

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.

When a Writing Project Gets Sidelined

If you have a passion for creative hobbies, you know how difficult it can be to keep momentum on a project. With time and practice, we get better at blocking out distractions, but some things can't be blocked out. Some things, like a health crisis, or a plea for assistance from someone you care about who's always there for you, or a last-minute visit from your far away best friend who you haven't seen in years, cry out for attention, and you shouldn't feel guilty about giving it to them.

But what about our writing?

Take heart. There are things we can do to safeguard our progress and ensure that all is not lost.