Writer Life Lesson #3: Write Every Day

Imagine your writing, whether it be a work in progress, or an essay,or a bunch of short stories, or even all of the above. Now think about your day, the errands you run, or what hours you work, or the time you spend doing things you really want to do. Is writing anywhere in that day, or is it just something you do when the urge hits you? It should be something scheduled, or at least planned.

Writing Life Lesson #3: Write Every Day

We, as writers, are lucky. Our hobby, or our job as a writer is not expensive. It isn’t as expensive as say, gambling or skydriving. If worse came to worse, we could all write on 50 cent notebooks and dollar store pens. The most expensive thing that writing requires is our time.

Writing anything takes time. Sure, the idea may come in a flash, but the actual writing takes time. Each word carefully crafted from our minds to the pen or pencil or keyboard, each sentence and paragraph strung together with time and energy.

Some days, it’s hard for us to write, the ideas just don’t come to us or we are distracted by something else more pressing. Those are the days we need to write most. Writing is a muscle, it requires working out every once in a while. Any athlete will tell you that to make something stronger, to hone a skill, it must be practiced and performed. No one wakes up and is the best writer in the world, just like no athlete or physicist wakes up and is the best in their field.

When we as writers take time to write every day, whether it’s a to-do list, or a chapter, or even just an idea or two in detail, we work those writing muscles and make ourselves better writers. We practice that skill and we get better at putting words on the page and making sure those words are the right words we want to say to get our point across. Our stories, or our blog posts or whatever we write grows into something we ourselves could never have imagined we would make. We impress even ourselves, and that is magical.

So how do we get ourselves to write every day, especially if it’s a struggle? Make every word count. Actively think about the words you are writing or what they mean to you, or will mean to someone else. Start small, 5 or 10 minutes a day, and then slowly increase it to 15 or 20 minutes. Write wherever you can find time, or write in long chunks, it doesn’t matter, as long as you keep writing.

It will get easier as it goes on, so why not start today?

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These are my daily word counts for February. This is the longest writing streak I've had in a while.

What does your writing schedule look like? Do you write every day?

Handwriting and Typing

There are several ways to get our words and ideas out into the universe. If you are a singer, that’s through music; an artist, it’s through paint or marble; a politician, your words and actions. If you are a writer, however, it’s through one of two mediums: handwriting or typing.

There are several reasons to do one, or the other, or even both. Though with the addition of wireless technology and the internet almost anywhere, handwriting and even cursive, are beginning to become obsolete.

I was lucky. I experienced most my childhood before the big influx of technology, and most of my early writing days were with a pen or pencil and blue lined binder paper. It wasn’t until my teen years that I even had a personal computer. I can still think back to when I did some of my school assignments that required typing at my kitchen table on an electric typewriter from the early 80s. If I hadn’t had that personal computer, I would probably still be using that ancient monster.

I am still lucky. I have loads of technology, and several ways to stay connected, several ways to get my words on the page whether through a keyboard on a touchscreen or writing each individual word on a blue lined page. I am lucky to have that choice, to choose how I want to write it and how much work I want to put into it. I’d like to think I’m not alone in that choice.

There are several choices out there, whether you handwrite in notebooks, or if you choose technology to get your words on a page. This isn’t going to be a post where I give you my best choices for writing utensils or programs, it’s not going to be a post where I try and persuade you that one is better than the other.

This is just a way to say that both are valid options.

I actually handwrite and type, depending on the project. If it is a project that requires multiple drafts, I usually handwrite the first draft, and then type subsequent drafts. I find that this helps because with handwriting there are less distractions. Usually when I type, I get distracted by the idea of checking my email, or my facebook, or my blog, but handwriting it’s a bit harder to get distracted.

When I work on second drafts or rewrites, then I type. It’s easier to read the words and determine what I was trying to say if it’s a relatively clean page, free of notes or doodles. It also keeps the page cleaner, rather than trying to look through the scribbles and determine my meaning.

It shocks me that people my age, and people even older, wonder why I handwrite a lot of the time. I understand that everyone has their smartphones and iPads and technology right at their fingertips, but at the moment, I don’t. I can’t always connect to the internet to write down my every thought, or feeling, so I handwrite it. I actually prefer it that way. That means I can go write outside without trying to see a screen in the bright sunlight, or I can go where there is no internet or service and still write.

I’m not saying that everyone should go back to handwriting, or that everyone should use technology. What I am saying is: Change it up. Don’t get caught up in one way or another. Disconnect from the mass of technology that is the internet and try writing a few words with a pen, or put down the pen and start typing a page or two. Change it up, especially if you’re stuck, because you never know what can happen.

In the end, it doesn’t matter how you do it, just as long as you keep writing.

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Notebooks like the ones I use to handwrite

How do you write your words?

Publishing in the Modern World

When we write, when we put words down on the page, we often want to be heard, we want our words to mean something. Sometimes that means just putting words on the page, and sometimes that means something huge, like publishing. Publishing is one of the best opportunities for writers, and it is a huge step, no matter what path we,as writers, choose for ourselves.

There are many options and so many choices to make when we decide to enter the publishing world. There is everything from publishing on a blog for just a few followers to sending your work to one of the big publishing companies for millions upon millions to read (if you’re lucky). In between, there are more options and so much to decide in a short amount of time. There is a lot you should know about publishing, and so much you should research for yourself. Publishing has changed so much since books began to become mass published and there are so many terms and conditions that may be confusing to first time researchers.

These are only for short story markets so far, but some do cross over to novels and non-fiction.

Simultaneous Submissions- This refers to how many submissions you send into separate publishing companies. Say you have a story called “Bob’s Lunchbox” and you think it’s the most amazing story ever so you send it to Company A, Company B and Company C. That would be a simultaneous submission and most publishing companies frown on that. They usually prefer that you wait to hear from them before you send your masterpiece somewhere else.

Multiple Submissions- This refers to how many submissions you send to that same company. This means if you have more than one great masterpiece, “Bob’s Lunchbox”, “Purple Robe”, and “Rest for Bob”, you send them all to the same company, Company A. Most publishing companies don’t like that either. They prefer you send one story at a time so they can process that one, decide what they want to do with it, and then get back to you before you submit your next piece.

Previously Published- As writers, we should know what “previously published” means, but with the internet and so many types of art becoming readily available, that definition becomes a little fuzzy. Most literary magazines, publishing companies, and online publishers define previously published as “Anything that has been distributed for audiences on websites, print, or digital”. This means on social media, writing websites, and yes, your blog. But don’t fret when you print it on your home computer, in print refers to anything with a barcode. Say, the createspace option for winners of NaNoWriMo. It may be amazing to have your book in print, but if you want to publish it, and publish it seriously for mass audiences, skip the offer.

These are just some general terms that are on most submission guidelines pages. There are probably a lot more options out there and a lot more terms to research, but these are just the tip of the iceberg. You should do your own research for your own publishing ventures and carefully decide what path you want to pursue. I am not an expert, I am a researcher, just like you, and a writer that wants to inform and protect my fellow writers.

Best of luck if you decide to publish, and best of luck in your writing!

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Publishing can be scary, but you will learn a lot just by researching

Do you have plans for publishing? Where are you going to start?

Facing Our Fears

Sometimes, we don’t know what to call ourselves. Are we writers, novelists, authors, all of the above? When people ask us we often just shrug and say “I write stuff I guess…” or just kind of “I’m a writer but not published or anything” Does it matter what we call ourselves or what we say, as long as we write?

I used to struggle with calling myself a writer. I thought that no one would care, no one would appreciate it unless I had something to show for it. I used to write in secret, and I used to let only one person, or a few read my works (and those were first drafts!). I still don’t completely share all of my works yet, but maybe someday I will.

I started to call myself a writer pretty recently, when more people started calling me a writer. As I got older, I got more comfortable calling myself a writer, telling people what I do, what I want to do, what I feel I must do to enjoy this one life I have. So now, when people ask, first I say I’m a soon-to-be nurse (since I’m technically waiting to take the test that will make me a real practicing nurse), and then I say I’m a writer. Depending on who asks, it’s usually switched. I have been a writer way longer than I have ever even wanted to be a nurse.

An author, in my mind, is someone who makes money from their writing. I am not yet an author, but I want to be. Someday, you will all see my name on bookshelves everywhere. I just have to face the fear and dive into the publishing pool head first. And it is scary. The waiting and the rejection and the possibility of having my words out there is three parts exciting and one part pure and complete terror. So I cannot yet call myself an author, but I will someday.

I made the first step toward calling myself an author today. It’s a baby step, but I researched short story publishing today. There are a lot of choices, and so many more steps, but it was a start. It’s terrifying, but I am so glad I did it. It might be a while, but it is going to happen, and I am going to keep writing until it does happen.

Our fears may be frightening, looming before us like huge gates, holding us back from what we can achieve, but amazing things can happen when we face them. Courage, not fear, is the way we make our dreams come true.

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This quote is so inspiring. Learning to live with my fear was one of the best things I ever did

What is your biggest writing fear? How do you plan to face it?

Ideas and Where to Find Them

Ideas are everywhere, and can come from anything. Pictures, songs, shows, everyday conversation, anyone and anything can spark an idea. Sometimes, the more ideas you find, the more that keep popping up when you least expect them. Sometimes, all we need to do to find ideas is look, listen and feel the world all around us. Ideas are everywhere if you just stop forcing yourself to look for them and let them find you.

Over the years, I have found ideas from many places and turned them into some decent drafts, and some not so decent drafts. Some ideas lead to great works, and others fall through, but they all deserve a chance to be explored and experimented with. They deserve to be given a chance to show their brilliance.

I’ve mentioned before that my first serious idea came from my eighth grade history class, when my awesome teacher started talking about the new colonies of America and indentured servants. I have thought up several ideas from other classes, but I find a lot of my ideas in several places.

Sometimes it will be something said in conversation, or a scene from a play or movie, sometimes it’s a game, or even another novel, or short story. Sometimes it’s social media and sometimes it’s even a song or several songs. Sometimes it’s just a simple image.

My second novel I ever completed was based off of a picture. It was a school assignment, one of the last assignments in freshman year english, and it was supposed to be just a short story. That was what it stayed, a short story about a boy in love with his best friend (this seems to be a common theme in my writing), and they died at the end because I didn’t know how to end it. It stayed that way until my junior year when I found it hiding on my computer and decided it wasn’t done. So an idea came from an idea. That piece still needs a lot of work, but I at least I finished it.

More recently, my ideas come from songs. If you just happen to take a peek at my short stories page, you’ll notice they are all song titles at this point. I have always had a love of music ever since I was a young child. Sometimes as I lay in bed at night listening to any kind of music, I jolt out of bed and have to write a new idea down based on a lyric or an instrumental or both. Some of the short stories turn out amazing (Amsterdam, Congratulations, The Scientist and Samson come to mind) and some fall flat, but they become words on a page and can always be fixed later, they can always become something more.

My current novel, which has recently grown into a nine book series, got its start from a book of prompts. There were a few that were similar that I pieced together and augmented as needed. It started as just a girl in a coma close to death after a serious accident, and then became a three book series, and then a seven book series, and finally a nine book series, pulling several ideas from pretty much everywhere as it grew.

That is the power of ideas and what they can become.

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The longest short story to date, and it all came from parts of a song.

Where do you find most of your ideas?

Writer Life Lesson #2: Write What You Want

Fads are everywhere. Things become popular one day and are gone the next. Writing is no stranger to fads and popular ideas are everywhere. When one idea becomes popular several copies follow. Think about how popular vampires have been, or dystopian novels. Where one pops up, five more follow. In five or ten years we’ll all be moved on to a new overused plot or trope.

This leads me to Writer Life Lesson #2: Write What You Want

There are several reasons why you should write what YOU want. If you are writing to please someone else, or because popular fads get published, or you just want to make money, you are doing it for the wrong reasons. It may work out for a short time, but in the long run it is career and passion suicide. It will get tiresome and boring and you will hate it.

On the other hand, wonderful things happen if you write for yourself and what you want to write. Every piece will get your heart pumping and your hands itching to write just one more scene.To write what you want, to write for yourself, is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself.

Write your work and your ideas, no matter what the popular fad of the week is. It’s easy to want to fall into a fad, to get ourselves thinking “Well the best selling novel right now is about werewolves so I am going to write a book about werewolves and make it big!”, and yes, anyone could make it big writing about werewolves, but that doesn’t mean the werewolf fad will always be popular.

Publishing a novel takes a long time. With the weeks to wait to hear back from publishers and agents, weeks for rewrites and edits, more weeks after that for formatting, cover design and PR, but the time your book hits the shelves it could be a year and a half or more. Think about where you were a year and a half ago, think about what was popular then and what is popular now. Back to the werewolf example, if werewolves are still popular in a year and a half to two years, your book is probably catching the tail end of that wave. Your book will get some sales, but slowly be phased out with the rest.

I’ve fallen into the same trap. I wrote a vampire novel, and a werewolf novel, or parts of them anyway. They ended up being scrapped pretty quickly. Might I finish them eventually, or rewrite them entirely? Maybe, but now is not the right time. I’m a bit embarrassed to admit this, but I even wrote a novel with basically the same plot as Twilight, or it started out that way. Toward the end it became its own plot and had it’s own themes. When I rewrote it about a year later, it became much better. That piece is still in the works, and it may be published someday, but only after I can give it the proper time it needs.

Which leads me to my next point: If you feel you must write something that is considered a fad, change it up enough, make it as different as you can, give readers something they don’t expect to keep them reading. Fads go out of style because we, as a society, get used to them, they become boring and trite. If you can surprise the reader, show them a new side or something they didn’t consider, they will keep reading.

Back to writing for yourself, what you want to write, and publishing. If you write something that you didn’t choose or something that you think will make you money, remember it is something you will have to keep revisiting. Something that will continue to need work and edits and rewrites. It’s not something you can just write once and send in expecting it to be perfect. If you write something you love working on, something you love to revisit like an old friend, it will be easier and more fun.

And isn’t that what writing is supposed to be about?

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My favorite work so far. And the piece I keep revisiting.

What is your favorite piece you’ve written so far? What was it about?

Doubt and Writing

If I had a dollar for every time I doubted an idea, I would be rich, and not have a single word written, nor any novels or short stories completed. Plainly, I would not be a writer, but a doubter.

Every writer, at some point or another, doubts their work, their ideas or their talent. So what do you do when that nagging doubt starts to eat away at your precious writing time? The way I see it, you can do three things. You can feed it, you can ignore it, or you can write through it.

If you:

Feed It: You let it grow. You let it eat away at you and fill you with fear and the idea that you are nothing, that you will never be anything because your idea is stupid, or it’s already been done by much better writers than you. It tells you all you do is copy, all you will ever be is a copier and a scam. No one will ever read your book, even if you paid them. I could go on and on, but you get the point.

If you:

Ignore It: You don’t listen to your doubts, you don’t let them get you down. If you can write, it goes well for a while;If you cannot write, you can’t come up with a reason why. You keep telling yourself I’ll write later or I’ll write on the commercials. It’s never I don’t want to write it’s I just can’t write right now. Eventually, your doubt sneaks up on you and it’s impossible to ignore it. And you suddenly find yourself listening to it.

If you:

Write Through It: You don’t listen to your doubts, you don’t even hear them because you are busy putting words on the page. You learn that your doubts are not all bad, and some of them are even founded, but that you take them with a grain of salt. You realize that your doubts were a way to try and keep you down, keep you in the same place you were and away from change. You keep writing even though you have doubts and you get pieces done. Instead of your enemies, your doubts become some kind of friends, or at least warnings.

I used to be in the first category, and then I moved into the second category the longer I wrote. I would write, but I would have all of those doubts and it would take ages to even finish a piece. I would focus more on other things I wanted to do instead of writing. Paint drying could be more interesting. I would start pieces and never finish them. I would start pieces and get stuck and not even want to get unstuck. I thought I was ignoring my doubts, but they were still eating me.

Recently, if you can call just over two years ago recently, I began to start taking writing more seriously than in previous years. I began taking everything more serious in my life when I got accepted into the Licensed Vocational Nursing Program. Around that time, the first manuscript I ever typed was printed for me. That, and the fact that my mom and almost her whole side of the family read it, and actually liked it, propelled me into the third category.

Even though I had doubted myself and told myself no one would read it or like it throughout the whole writing and typing process, someone had liked it. It was then that I realized, even if I doubted it almost every step of the way, it didn’t mean that my doubts were founded. That was when it all changed and I decided to write through my doubts and not let them eat me alive.

I’m not saying that’s the way for everyone, but I am saying that just because you doubt yourself doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t write that idea or plan it out. What you could do is write in spite of the doubts.

It may seem difficult at first, but it will get easier. Start by taking a deep breath and focusing on the project before you. Then write one sentence, it doesn’t even have to be a good sentence. Just one sentence.

How about you? How do you handle your doubts?

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This quote is great. Think about your doubts as those brick walls.

And remember, the secret is: Just keep going.