Writer Life Lesson #25: To Write or Not To Write?

Even as the best of writers, we all have busy lives. The kids need to be taken care of, bills need to be paid, and most of us have other hobbies other than writing. And let’s not forget the unexpected things that come up and take precedent over writing.

Lately, I have been very guilty of not having time to write, and it’s been making me feel a little disappointed in myself. I don’t have kids, I have a few bills, and a few hobbies here and there, but there is still time to write here and there and I haven’t really been taking advantage of it. As I sit here, thinking about NaNoWriMo coming up and how I haven’t really been writing lately, it makes sense that other writers must go through this too.

This leads me to Writer Life Lesson #25: Sometimes it’s okay not to write. 

For the past few months, my life has been crazy and has only gotten crazier since then. I was working a full-time 9-5 job, doing full-time school online, doing judo four days a week, and interviewing for a new job. Thankfully now some of that has calmed down. I’m still in school (though getting that much closer to the end), judo is still four days a week (when I can make it), but my job has completely changed.

Currently, I am going through orientation for my new job which has completely different duties from my 9-5 job, and is no longer 9-5, but whenever shift they need. This shift has really begun to eat my writing time, and some days I come home and the last thing I want to do is write.

Sitting here, finally having time to write, and thinking about it, I’ve realized it’s okay for me not to write for a few weeks here and there while things settle, or while I’m focusing on orienting in the new job.

If I can get a few sentences here and there, then that’s great! Even if it’s a single sentence, or even a single word, progress is still being made. It’s alright to take previous drafts and frankenstein a book out of previous drafts and go from there.

I’ve been writing for over a decade and some aspects of writing are still new to me, and that’s great!

Writing is still an adventure, and it’s okay to write or not write. But you can bet I’m going to give it my best shot come November 1st!

If you want to write a novel, join me here!

 

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Writer Life Lesson #24: Sometimes It’s Better Not to Outline

I have been working on a novel and its series for nearly eight years now. Several of them have had outlines and several of them haven’t. All of them have been started during National Novel Writing Month and a few of them have been finished. Why am I telling you about my projects in a post about outlining?

Because Sometimes it’s better not to outline.

The first few drafts of book one of my series, I outlined, which set the pace for the rest of the series. There are three point of views and each of them have twelve chapters. So thirty-six chapters per book. That’s easy enough, right? It helps with pacing and makes sure that the book doesn’t get too long and winded. “Ok, it’s section 10/12, time to start wrapping it up,”I think to myself as I write and begin to get bored with the plot after months and months.

The problem however, is that a lot of times when I get to section ten or eleven, I still have so much story and I shoehorn the plot in and plan to fix it later. It’s an ugly process, but for post-nano and finishing novels it works for me.

Until recently, that is.

I’ve lost count of the number of drafts that I’ve written for the first book of my series. I have tried to stick to the “Twelve chapters of each point of view, nice and tidy at thirty-six chapters” plan, but for this rewrite, because there is so much information in the first book that needs to be added in, I have decided to chuck my outline and chapter structures. I have decided to just write what needs to be written and fill in the blanks later.

I have the basic plot and know where the characters need to end up at the end of the novel, but I’m letting them surprise me with what happens in between and leaving myself notes as I go. It’s a freeing process, because the characters can breathe and have organic interactions and have time to expand before they all reach the end.

I’m finding so many more interesting things than I would have if I had stuck to my outline.  Some of my best novels so far have been ones where I have a loose outline or none at all.

If you’re stuck, try not outlining and see what happens.

Writer Life Lesson #23: Write Three Sentences

Yes, you are reading that correctly. Just three sentences.

Life is busy for most writers. We have day jobs, kids, pets, outside life to deal with once we leave the page. Several things interrupt us from our stories and as more days pass it becomes more difficult to get back into the story.

We also have distractions, such as Netflix, TV, flash games. I have been guilty lately of giving into the distractions instead of writing and falling deeper into despair that I haven’t been writing.

How do I fix that? Write Three Sentences.

It almost seems too easy, right? For some of you, it might be. Some of you writers are probably thinking “That’s it?!”. But hear me out.

If you’re distracted, binging Netflix, stuck playing Facebook games, or catatonic after your day job, three sentences can feel like a mountain.

My new binge has been listening to podcasts. They can vary in length from fifteen minutes to an hour, sometimes an hour and a half. I’ve told myself that age old excuse of “I’ll write after this podcast ends” and then it automatically starts to play the next one and I think that same thought. Repeat Ad Nauseum until it’s time to go to bed.

What I have decided to do, and that works for me, is pausing the podcast, writing three sentences and then returning to the podcast, or the Netflix episode, or whatever else has been captivating my attention.

Over the past couple days, I have written about three thousand words just three sentences at a time. I’m in love with my story and characters again and am finally advancing the plot. An added bonus is I no longer have days where I don’t write anything. Even if it’s 100 words, that’s still something.

If you’re like me, and distracted by social media, Netflix, podcasts, TED talks, or anything else, and still wanting to write, pause that Netflix episode, that podcast, that TED talk, take a break from whatever is pulling you away from your writing and write three sentences .

Hopefully, when you do, one of these things will happen. You will either want to continue writing more than those three sentences or want to get back to whatever was distracting you. If you do go back to what was distracting you, try the three sentence rule again at the next break.

Even if you do just write three sentences at a time, eventually your project will be finished.

Writer Life Lesson #22: Every Piece You Write is Important… Even Fanfiction

What are you writing right now? Is it a novel, an essay, a smut filled fanfiction, literally anything else where you put words on paper?

First: Good for you! You’re writing. 

Second: Don’t stop writing and don’t ever throw it away. It’s important to your writing craft. 

Every Piece You Write is Important. 

Think about your whole writing career for a second. Whether you started writing yesterday or two decades ago, you have a writing career. Now think about all the stories you have worked on, finished or not. 

Whether they were published, or thrown into a drawer never to see the light of day again, they are important to how you see yourself and how you build yourself as a writer. 

Even those fanfiction stories you wrote in middle school and high school. 

Just by writing, whether it’s a short story for school or a long novel series, or even something small like one great sentence, you are improving your writing career and getting one word closer to finishing that story, or chapter, or book, or even series. 

By trying things in stories, even if that story will never be published, or be seen by readers, you are improving and gaining knowledge of how to make things better the next time you decided to use that idea. 

That is why I love fanfiction. Both writing and reading it. It gives me a chance to try things in a novel I hope to eventually publish and see how people react to it without actually using it in my novel yet. 

An example would be the parallels between my novel and a fanfiction story I was writing last year. 

In my novel series, a character suffers from amnesia (cliché ? Yes, but trying to make it less so). In the fanfiction, a character wakes up after an OD with amnesia, and I got to play around with how to both write and format flashbacks between the characters without it being too clunky or boring. 

Every piece is important to our growth as writers. 

Stuck on how to write something? Why not try fanfiction and see what happens!

Good luck in all your writing endeavors! 

Writer Life Lesson #21: Set a Timer and Write Like Mad

Writing is a difficult task, and yet the easiest task in the world. All you have to do is put words on paper, any words at all. That, unfortunately can become pretty complicated when you add in work, school, family time, shopping, etc etc etc. When you add in all the other aspects of life, writing can seem to become not as important as everything else. 

This week’s lesson: Set a Timer and Write Like Mad!

It sounds easy enough, right? Set a timer and just write. It doesn’t matter what, or where, or even how. As long as words are going down on the page, whatever the medium, you are making progress. 

I usually set a timer for 10 or 15 minutes to start with, since starting with a full hour or even 45 minutes can be very intimidating. This can change depending on your desire to write too, or how much time you actually have. Some days, all you’re going to get is five minutes, as unfortunate as that may be. 

This method works so well because it gets past that feeling of unworthiness and the fear of messing up and helps to break through to that sweet spot of writing where everything just falls into place. It will get you into the writing mood. 

I am off to do 10 minutes, anyone want to join?

Writer Life Lessons #20: Save Your Research for the Second Draft

Imagine how much work we would all get done if we stopped to research every little thing in our writing to make sure it was factually accurate. I don’t know about you, but I would probably get no work done. I would be so into researching and making sure that every little detail was painstakingly accurate that I would never get any words on the page.

This is why you should Save Your Research for the Second Draft.

Let the first draft be what it wants to be. Finish a whole project and then do as much research as your heart desires. Get your ideas down and then find out if they are accurate. If you research after every scene, not only will you be burned out on research, but on writing as well. Writers need to write.

Sometimes in first drafts, we don’t always know exactly what we want to happen, so we just write something that resembles a plot and then hopefully edit the hell out of it later. If we as writers edit every little detail and research as we’re writing the first draft, we might not even use that research in later drafts and that was time we could have been using to write.

Don’t get me wrong, small bits of research, like how to spell or phrase things, is fine. As long as it is under 5-10 minutes (depending on your internet/data speed), then I think it’s fine. It’s when you get sucked into researching for an entire afternoon that it becomes a problem. So try and keep research to a minimum and writing to a maximum.

Happy Writing!

Writer Life Lessons #19: Learn Everything You Can

Some of you may be looking at this title and thinking “Learning? But I’m a writer and I already know what I want to write about”. I understand where you are coming from, and I know how daunting it sounds to learn new things, but there is a reason for it.

Learn Everything You Can because you never know when it will come in handy for your next draft, or even in your own life. If nothing else, it’s interesting factoids at parties. Entertain yourself and your friends!

When you have a voracious appetite for learning, it makes writing easier. Not only do the ideas flow better, because you know more base information to come up with ideas, but you more easily can identify plot holes and glaringly obvious mistakes that might have made your reader put your book down and never pick it up again.

I’m not saying that you should go to college, or back to college, just because you want to write about astrophysics. I am saying learn what interests you. With the addition of the internet and smart phones, tons and tons of knowledge is at the tip of our fingers. If I wanted to learn Mandarin Chinese tomorrow, all I would have to do is type it into my nearest search bar and find the link that interests me most.

The learning doesn’t always have to be online either. There are books and podcasts and shows on television, groups in your area. If you can think of a way to learn, it is probably out there in your community. Anything and Everything is out there if you know where to look.

I take this lesson very personally, because as of now, I have been in school for most of my life and am just starting to break out into the workforce. I have learned a lot in all the schools that I have been in and all of the classes and units that I have taken. Even now, after I have graduated, I still am learning new things everyday. I want to know as much as possible, so my characters, my scenes, my writing can be as amazing as real life, and so I can help as many people as possible in my life.

Recently, I learned the basic information about computers and laptops, and brought my old laptop back to life with a few parts from my lovely boyfriend, and the assistance of my dad. It’s running great now, and it is what I am using to write this post right now. Sure, I could have just bought a new laptop, when I get a job, but I get the satisfaction of knowing that I fixed it and that I have a new experience and new knowledge to fall back on.

So go out and learn something new, and be proud of that knowledge!

And as always:

Happy Writing!