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

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.

15 Holiday Gifts for Writers

Feeling in a festive mood? I’ve got fifteen 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.

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 writing laying around (unless you're incredibly ruthless about purging nostalgic clutter and/or terribly crafty about finding ways to re-purpose it, in which case can I please borrow some of your magic?).

I've been helping my mum sort through stacks of old files and paperwork this week, and I stumbled on a handwritten story snippet, about half a page long. By the time I was a paragraph in, my shoulders were tense and I was waiting for the no good horrible thing to happen (hint: it involved a ransom note), and then - AHA! 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.

When we were done giggling about it, 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?

I've been thinking about it, and I think 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.

Let's clarify something: 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, nope, nope, nope.

Guess what? When we go ahead and pursue the change, good stuff can happen. Good stuff like:

  • starting a writing coaching business and realizing anew every day how much you love it
  • 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 change your life

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. I realized today, 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 (especially as I'd highly recommend it), but there's a character who's gotten stuck in a comfort zone - a beautiful one, I'll admit - 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? It's a huge topic, one I plan to explore both in future blog entries and in my newsletter, but there's three things we can do right now.

Ready? Let's do this.

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? What's that? 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, or 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 a champ.

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 one or two (or three! I dare you) resilient plants that need a minimum of care to thrive.

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

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, because you don't want to give yourself a chance to come up with any more reasons why you shouldn't do this (but if you do, just turn it on its head, like you did with the others)!

Step 3 | Get started

Day One is here! Yay!

Um ... now what?

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, very, 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! Go to a smaller one, if possible, rather than a chain store with acres of plants. It will be less intimidating and the employees won't be generalists, they'll know exactly what works in your climate and your area. Humble yourself: tell them exactly what you want and that it needs to be easy care. Tell them you just want three plants, no more, no less, 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 into Google Calendar, your paper planner, whatever you use to see what needs doing when. Whatever you do, don't schedule all 50,000 words!

"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!

If you want a fun challenge to help you get started, why not take a couple weeks to build a strong foundation for your main character? Click here to find out more!

How I Wrote 10,000 Words in a Weekend

I've mentioned a few times now how I wrote the final 10,000 words-ish 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 it did! 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.

It's time to get it done; let's do it!

When a Writing Project Gets Sidelined

We've talked a little about some general coping strategies when something major comes up in your life and needs your attention NOW. Today, let's get more specific. If you're at all creative, 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 the death or serious illness of someone you care about, or a health crisis of your own, or a last-minute visit from your far away best friend who you haven't seen in years, cry out for attention, and you should not 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.

How to Cope When Everything Falls Apart

I made it to a great place a couple of weeks ago. You know that feeling, when your health is on track, and you know how you want to be spending your days, and even though you're not where you want to be you feel springy, poised, ready to launch yourself into Phase 2? That's where I was, for the first time in a long time, and it felt incredible.

I barely had time to take a baby step in that direction when the phone rang at 11 PM. And very little good news comes from a late night phone call.

Within a couple of days, Mum and I were on a plane to Ontario for my grandad's funeral, a man who I was never going to be ready to lose. Everything else slammed to a halt as I joined with the rest of my family to celebrate his life and ease the transition to a new chapter for us all.

I'll be talking more in days to come about what I learned from Grandad about authenticity and being true to yourself, but for now I want to touch on something else I think he'd approve of: how to cope when you have to drop everything, and how to prime yourself for relaunch.

Having the Courage to Change Routines

The past doesn't predict the future, or at least not always. Though it's good to learn from the past, on a global as well as personal scale, it can place limits on us, too. We have to look at the past with a critical eye, looking past the surface to what worked and what didn't. I think, too, we also have to move beyond the idea that A + B = C. Just because we had a horrible breakup with a musician in the past doesn't mean all our future relationships with musicians are doomed; failing your driving test once doesn't necessarily mean you're meant to be a pedestrian and public transit-goer forever. There are other factors at play.

Why is it sometimes so hard to remember this?

I think we like having "easy" answers to things. The world is so confusing that we tend to glom on to anything that appears to shed light on our questions - and there are so many, many questions! Even as writers, we who create worlds from our imaginations, we look for wisdom and certainty in every article, book and mentor we can find about our craft, trying to learn what others have learned before us so we don't repeat their mistakes.

And what do we do instead?

One thing I try and encourage in myself as a writer, as well as each and every one of my coaching clients, is to trust my instincts. It seems that no matter how accomplished writers are or how confident they seem to be in a project, this concept always needs a little bit of reinforcement.


In the past, when I've written scenes out of order in a novel, writing them as they occur to me or plucking whichever ones feel most interesting from an outline, I've crashed and burned. It left me feeling wrung out and uninspired. I decided writing out of order wasn't for me, that the next time I worked on the rough draft of a novel I would write it straight through.

Flash forward to the present, and my current WIP. I've written about the first half of it straight through; a few tidbits of later scenes snuck in occasionally, nothing too big. Now that I have about 30,000 words of my 50,000 word goal (subject to change, but this is, as I constantly remind myself, a first draft), I'm a little hesitant about what comes next, so I'm taking on what I do know: the ending. Or rather, the last quarter-ish. I was reluctant at first to go back to my non-chronological ways, nervous that my progress - the furthest I've gotten on a novel in way too long - would slip down the drain.

This time, though, things are a little different. I have a good chunk of the story written already, straight through. If I write the end now, I can bridge the two pieces and wind up with a solid rough draft, rather than trying to force myself to trudge ahead sequentially and work myself into a creative block. I don't know yet if this leap of faith is going to pay off, but I think it will. Going on instinct, here.

How else could this apply to writers?

While a few writers seem to find a routine and stick with it from project to project, little to no adjustments necessary, most of us are not so lucky. We struggle with:

  • writing alone or with company
  • outline or no outline
  • middle grade or YA
  • self-publish or traditional publisher
  • edit as we go or wait until the draft is done

The list feels endless. As long as we don't put ourselves in tidy boxes, scared to try something new for fear of it backfiring on us, we'll get along just fine. With the right attitude, those articles and books on writing, and those mentors we learn from, can introduce us to new methods and give us new insight on old ones.

Have you spent your writing time in complete solitude for months because, the last time you tried it, you got absolutely nothing done? It happens. But why not give it a try with someone new, or in another location, or with a different project, or all of the above? It never hurts to explore a little outside the box when it comes to our craft.

Looking for something to jumpstart your creativity? Get back to basics (and find out how much they can teach you) with your characters. Click here to learn more!