Regaining Writing Momentum After The Holi-daze

person sitting on bench under tree

So that big push in November for writing more, especially if you participated in NaNoWriMo, led to a giant “sigh” in December, flowing right into the holidays, after which we skated into the new year.

Before you knew it, you might not have written anything constructive for a couple of weeks.

Sound familiar?

I myself felt like I was treading water, and I can’t swim!

The creative writing part of me just kind of remained stuck in the mud, not moving backward, but certainly not moving forward either.

So how do I jumpstart myself out of this little funk? 

It happened to be a combination of things, the first of which was putting the behind back into the chair. If I wasn’t writing, I was reading. I read fiction by authors I enjoy and nonfiction works on the craft of writing. I read blogs and comments on writing techniques. I attended our local writing guild’s workshop.

And then I read my own work.

I read my wip, from the start to where I left off, which consequently left me hanging without any type of closure to the story, because well, there was no ending written for this story, now was there?

No, there wasn’t, and you know what? There is only one person that can write that ending, and that’s the one sitting in my chair. So there’s your motivation. You are the only one that can write your story, and write it well.

So get that behind in the chair, at home or at one of your favorite inspiring locations, plug into your favorite music to create with (just please tell me it’s not that creative mood channel on Spotify-please, please) and start writing. Anything. Anything at all. Just write. And you’ll get back into that groove that you had started before being interrupted by those pesky holi-daze.

Good writing!

 

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Keep Your WIP Moving With Secrets And Motivation

 

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Keeping plot, action, and dialogue fresh can be a challenge. but Sol Stein can help you with that.

Who is Sol Stein, you ask?

He’s the writer of a great book on craft techniques and strategies, both fiction and nonfiction, and beyond. It’s titled, Stein On Writing. And why wouldn’t it be?

He suggests to spice up your drama, dialogue and plot, maybe give each participant a unique secret, kind of a whisper in their ear. Something that relates to the story, yet only is known by the person speaking. It may be a motive for a particular action, a desire for a specific result, a reason for having a lively conversation in the first place, etc. Provide something unique to each person that only they know to fuel their actions, motive and personal stance within your WIP. And no two characters get the same information at the same time. Intriguing for sure.

But it makes total sense, doesn’t it?

I mean, isn’t that what happens in real life? We take the bits and pieces of available information that specifically pertains to us and use that as our motivation in our conversations and dealings with people. Now, whether any of that information is accurate is a totally different story, but nonetheless, it affects us in everything we think and do.

From his book, Sol Stein says:

“That’s what happens in life. Each of us enters into a conversation with another person with a script that is different from the other person’s script. The frequent result is disagreement and conflict–disagreeable in life and invaluable in writing, for conflict is the ingredient that makes action dramatic. When we get involved with other people, the chances of a clash are present even with people we love because we do not have the same scripts in our heads. And the tension is even greater when we are involved with an antagonist.”

So there ya go, the secret to keeping your dialogue and plot action-oriented and full of drama.

Just like we want it to be.

 

#AmWriting

 

 

All The Words – NaNoWriMo

person holding white paper and typewriter

Every November, we get deluged by the NaNoWriMo craze. Maybe I shouldn’t call it a craze, because it is a thing, and well, sometimes we writers need a good ol’ kick in the posterior to keep things moving along, right?

Many proudly proclaim on social media that they are “doing it” this year, meaning writing 50,000 words toward their novel in just 30 days. They register on the NaNoWriMo website, where they’ll be tracked and held accountable. A great feat indeed,  if done properly.

Wait a minute, I said properly, didn’t’ I?

What, did you detect that sarcasm in my typing?

Weelllll, that may be because I’ve already heard the “plans” of some on how to achieve this task, and it seems to me that they’re perhaps more interested in the achievement rather than the actual purpose. And I mean that they’re gonna get those 50,000 words no matter what, because if they get a little hesitant in their storyline, they plan to just start typing random things, like a grocery list, a to-do list, or maybe a blog post. You know, things that aren’t necessarily related to their WIP, but are valid words nonetheless, and when plugged into that word tracker, count towards their 50,000-word goal.

Hmmm…

That’s when my eyes tend to want to roll a bit and a whisper of Whatever! flies through my head. I just don’t see the point of that.

But, I’ve never officially signed up for NaNoWriMo so I may play the same game if I was to put myself in that pressure situation. I can be realistic enough to realize that with everything else going on in my life right now, there is a very good chance that I would not be able to average the 1667 words a day needed to complete this challenge. Oh, I can likely get the words alright, but they would not all be written for a single novel, in the true sense and purpose of the challenge.

That being said, with all the hype that goes along with NaNoWriMo, I do renew and increase my commitment to write more regularly, with more frequency, and be more productive with my writing time, to build better habits if nothing else.  If I happen to hit that 50,000-word benchmark, then good for me. But otherwise, maybe I can start a National Writing Productivity Month, you know, NaWriProMo.

Anybody with me?

PS: If you’ve signed up and are participating in NaNoWriMo, what are you doing reading blog posts. Get to writing! 😎

Seasons Change, And So Do I…

autumn close up color daylight

Well, here we are, back at that dreaded daylight savings time, or maybe a better name would be the daylight shifting time. Apparently it’s not enough that the sunlight naturally dwindles a bit each day now, because we feel theneed to manipulate our clocks to better match the lighting patterns of the sun.

Shouldn’t we at least get to vote on this?

It really doesn’t matter, I suppose, because I can’t really do anything about it. I just accept the fact that I will, through no fault of my own, lose an hour of my preferred daylight time while some others may benefit from the change.

But does it affect you? More specifically, do your writing habits change with daylight savings time? With the seasons in general?

It does for me, I know that. Being someone that loves to be outside, including being able to sit out there and so some writing, you betcha it changes things. It brings me inside, of course, but it does so without the benefit of natural light. There I sit, darkness the backdrop out of the window, soft light glowing at the desk, and it puts me in a different mood. A wintertime, sluggish, less aware mood. If I liked locking myself in a room to write, I would love this time of year, because that’s what I feel. It’s more of a job than an activity, and it’s harder to get up and get outside to stretch the bones and mental processing.

But here we are, and theres nothing to do but sit my posterior down and put words to paper, whether hot or cold, sunny or darkened.

And you know what? Even if it does feel like more of a job during this time of year, what a wonderful and fulfilling job it is.

Happy writing to you all!

 

What’s Your Why, And How Does It Affect Your Writing

ask blackboard chalk board chalkboard

We hear the phrase a lot.

What’s your why? Why are you choosing to do what you do? Specifically, why are you writing?

So here’s your chance to explain yourself. What’s your why when it comes to your writing? I mean, you’ve got a reason for putting pen to paper, don’t you? Sure you do, or else you wouldn’t put yourself through the headaches, backaches, and mental struggles of finding that perfect word or phrase to get your point across.

Say, for example, that you write because that’s what you get paid to do. Perfectly legitimate reason, and a fine reason to put pen to paper, or finger to keyboard. I do it myself, and know that deadlines, contracts, and pending payment are fine motivators. Fine motivators, indeed.

Let’s say you write because you have a message or sales pitch that needs to get out. Again, a perfectly fine reason to write and get that message out to your targeted audience. This, seemingly, is one of the main reasons that articles and web content are splattered about all over social media, sometimes over, and over, and over, and, well, you get the picture.

“Because I have a story to tell, Jerry. That’s why I’m writing”. Excellent. Write that story and get it out there. Tell those that should know, and those that you think will have interest, and then sit back and be satisfied that you got your story out there as desired.

“I shall be rich and famous, revered by all for my literary prowess, leaving a legacy of the written word that shall carry over into the history books. I shall please everyone with my words, and everyone will buy my books”. Okay, here is where I must pause and turn away while laughing so hysterically that my eyes turn red, coffee shoots out of my nose, and I need an inhaler to regain my composure. Aack!

Come on now, you don’t really believe that one, do you? I mean, if that happens, kudos to you. Honestly, congratulations! But writing just usually doesn’t work that way. When you’re trying to please a certain group, person, or genre, the words will reflect that in an almost sleazy, sales pitchy way. Good for those used car salesman, but bad for a writer.  In fact, for creative story or novel writing, it’s tough to completely narrow down your genre before writing your story or novel, because you have to be continually aware of the parameters and various rules you need to remain in your predetermined genre classification.

I have a different idea.

You’ve got a pending story or idea for a story in you. And for one reason or another, (the why), it needs to come out. Whether it’s a story that you’ve been thinking about, pouring over, and painstakingly working on every-single-day, or it’s an article that you’ve been commissioned to write, just write it. No immediate rules, no confining parameters. Just write it as you see it, because you know what?

You can shape it, edit it, and transform it later, after the original draft is written without the predetermined rules. This will ensure that the article, short story, novella, or novel will be written in your voice, ultimately satisfying your why. It doesn’t matter who you think the audience will be, or what the genre was going to be. Those things will be revealed naturally as your story evolves.

Happy writing.

Writing Fiction With A Nonfiction Brain

 

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Just The Facts Ma’am

It’s a learning process, that’s for sure.

I was trained to see and report the facts, and only the facts. News reporting, community happenings, and numerous city council meetings meant digging for, uncovering, and reporting only the facts, in succinct, short, quick to the point sentences and fragments. It was mandatory to clearly share point after point after point while fitting the necessary information into a specific number of column inches. It would become the way I saw and remembered everything.

But now, in creating fiction, I felt like that dog that carelessly gets adopted and confined to an apartment bathroom, only to be finally let out into the world to be in awe of everyone and everything around me.

World building, descriptions, fictional details all available to me to complement my story? Descriptive and creative license available at my every turn? Turns available at every twist? More twists at those turns?

“Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa” as I go screaming around the house.

What I’m trying to say, as you can gather by now, is that it’s a different set of skills to learn how to write in a fiction setting vs a nonfiction setting. And therein lies the constant struggle in my writing psyche. For so many years, and even continuing to this day, much of my writing is based on facts, research, and numbers. The creative part is me just trying not to bore you to tears while providing all the necessary information for the article or study. But whilst brandishing that fiction pencil, all options are on the table. That can be daunting, and certainly demands a reset of my brain processing function.

How do you perform that mind reset?

Well, that’s a good question, and in all likelihood has as many unique answers as there are writers. For me, I have to be consistent in reminding myself to have fun with the words, since I have the luxury to make things happen as I want them to happen. It can be raining or not. It can be a cold day in winter, or a perfect beach day across the continent. Characters can be fashioned after anyone walking, running, strolling, skipping, or driving down the street. I can still write as if it’s a news story, but I have the creative license to go back and fill in the story with details, descriptions, and dialogue as I see or hear them. There are no fact checkers for these events, because I am my only source, leaving no one to refute my findings.

I know what you’re thinking, and it has to do with editors. That’s a damn fine point, but  more to do with the consistency and believability of the story, not my self witnessed, fictitious facts. As Stephen King says,  “The job of fiction is to find the truth inside the story’s web of lies”.

So whatever you need to do to flip that switch in your brain from fact based, nonfiction writing to fiction genre storytelling, do it on a consistent basis and pretty soon it’ll become as natural as sitting here cursing while watching those damn chipmunks dig up my yard everyday. The fiction writing mode of thinking will fire up more readily and allow a pretty cool working relationship with the rest of your mind.

And although I’m sure there is a statistic that would sound very official about this whole psychological matter, I’m forcing myself not to do the research and report back, because thankfully, I’m getting better about this whole switch flipping and brain resetting myself.

Damn chipmunks!

Hey! Who Is Gonna Take Care Of That Fictional Dog You Just Put Into Your Story?

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It was an easy decision at the time.

I’ll add a cute dog in my fiction. Who doesn’t like dogs, right? It’ll be a great secondary-type character to add to the story, one that will pal around and help show the emotions, attitudes and thoughts of my characters.

A dog will coexist perfectly with the characters, their personalities, where they live, how they live, and so on. It’ll be that little extra that adds another layer of reality to my story.

But then another reality hit me, and while looking around, I shouted, mostly to myself, “Hey! Who the heck is gonna take care of this thing?”

The more I started thinking and writing, the more I realized that I had to account for this fictitious, yet needy canine companion. The characters have to consider the dog when they do things, when they go places, and the length of their absences. It’s going to be there in the evening and overnight. It’s going to be hungry in the morning, and well, it will have to go outside and do it’s thing, which means somebody has to clean up after it does that thing.

My make believe dog is beginning to be just as time-consuming as the real thing, so now I’m wondering if its even a good thing to do, meaning adding a fictional dog to your story. Will there be fictional slobber in my shoes? Will there be fictional chew marks on our fictional furniture? Do I have to spend a couple of hours to find a fictional vet for my fictional dog? Just who is going to take care of this dog? And for crying out loud, what is his name?

As I turned away from writing this, I thought about that old cardboard box graveyard of old, dead Tamagotchis, GigaPets, and Nanos that we once had, way back when, and I feel a sudden, irrational fear and anxiety that my fictional, yet unnamed dog may suffer a similar fate, caused by inattention or just plain forgetfulness later in my manuscript.

Should I adopt this dog, even in a fictional world?

These decisions about getting pets are tough, even in a make-believe world.

Finding The Time To Write Usually Means Making The Time To Write

 

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Sure, we all have the same amount of hours in the day. That’s been the retort when complaining about not finding time in the day to get some quality, uninterrupted writing done. But everyone has their own individual priorities that have to be completed, based on work, family, or even health situations.

So I always roll my eyes when I hear about that go-getter that writes a sentence at traffic lights, jots down a few ideas that they’ll get back to in the next book while bouncing around on the metro, comes up with another hundred words while waiting for the barricade to rise at the parking garage, and then successfully finishes that integral  paragraph while waiting for the elevator.

I mean, can they be a legitimate writer?

By all accounts, at least from what we’ve seen on the internet, those statements just can’t be true, because we know that real writers act like now, don’t we? Being the cerebral sort, we writers, according to social media, obviously need a pre-writing routine to even think about getting words down. We have to endlessly organize and reposition things on our desk. We need to have just the right coffee cup, with just the right saying on it, in just the right spot on our desk. We have to arrange our favorite pens in just the right order, even if we write exclusively on our computers or laptops.

All the legitimate writers start their day by browsing through the wonderful and inspirational quotes from other writers and stare longingly at rustic cabins in the snow or sexy little shacks on pristine beaches so that we may have glorious words flow like spring water from our wonderful creative minds out through our fingers that are sparking along a keyboard or traveling side to side through a leather bound journal.

And last, but not least, how the heck can we be writing if we haven’t even proclaimed to the world by way of social media that #AmWriting?

So I ask you, how can we believe these stories of spontaneous yet connected words being written during the awkward pauses of life’s moments to be true?

How is one supposed to find the time to passionately pursue their writing?

The only way that I know, and it works pretty well, is to put your sitter-downer in the chair and start pecking on the keyboard or scribbling on a legal pad. I do like to always have a pen and some sort of paper with me to jot down thoughts and ideas, even unrelated to my current work, because as soon as I think I’ll remember it later, it’s gone, and trust me, it’s just as hard to make out those ink smudged words when they are written on your sweaty palms.

To find the time, you have to make the time. (Somewhat inspirational quote)

PS  I wrote this short blog, sentence by sentence, while gargling mouthwash, waiting for the dog to hack up whatever is stuck in his throat, and pausing to pick up the paper off of the front lawn, because #amwriting.

Wait, What’s Your Name Again?

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The name game.

Do you have a process for choosing your character’s names? Are there reasons behind the choices? Family? Acquaintances? Bullies from grade school? Coworkers?

I think we all have somewhat of a process. You know, we likely all have that one person we secretly would love to see on the other end of some bad karma, so BOOM, there’s your antagonist, villain, or adversary. Likewise, our protagonist might conjure up thoughts of goodness and all that’s right with the world, leading us to name them along those ideas. Friends, family, and past and present acquaintances all leave impressions on us throughout our daily lives, and subsequently leave an impression on us that is associated with their name, whether good, bad, or indifferent.

Others spend a lot of research on the naming of their characters, intensely digging and uncovering the meaning or origin of the name, the qualities that a person with that name might exhibit, and if they are historically accurate. The characters may even be assigned an appropriate birthday so that their horoscope reveals a supposed set of personality traits that matches their desired name choice.

I personally just go with the flow while writing until I think to myself that this person is sure acting like a …(insert appropriate name here). And I’ve changed the names on my characters more than once to, in my opinion, better match the situation and story. And geez, don’t even set me started on last names. That’s a bigger issue for me than the first names.

But I do tend to stay away from any iconic names, you know, like those that are so strongly associated with someone who it would be impossible to form a new and unbiased opinion of the character. So I won’t ever tell you that her name is Beyoncé, or that Elvis is the owner of the corner grocery store, especially if the story is set in the early 1900s, OK?

OK.

Any process or method you use is fine, by the way. There is, by no means, a right or wrong way to discover and decide upon the names of your characters. When it’s all said and done, you gotta do what works for you.

And right now, I gotta get back to writing about ol’ whats-his-name.

Good Writing!

 

 

Well, That’s The Trick Now, Isn’t It?

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Yeah, those words, or those right words I should say. The words that you read and give you the same emotional response that the writer felt while writing them. The words that writers fret over, change, and then change back again.

The experts tell us to write to the senses, all of them. Taste, sight, smell, touch, and sound. And that’s a great place to start. If we, as writers, can get you to experience our words on these levels, we’ve created a world for you that you will get lost in, believe in, and want to come back to.

Writing to the senses is also a way to bust out of that creative funk you’ve been in. I hate the term “writer’s block”. Pick your current setting, a random picture or person, or a simple event in your day. Start writing, using the senses as your guide to transfer your thoughts and emotions onto the page. What do you see, taste, and smell? What do you feel? What do you hear? Background noises, conversations, people’s actions, all of these and more contribute to a scene and convey the same feeling to the reader as the feeling that you experience in real time. Don’t forget the small, seemingly unimportant details. They make your writing real. Remember, if you notice something, you want your reader to notice it as well. Everytime.

And if we, as writers, can do this on  regular basis and make it a habit, then maybe, just maybe, we can claim to have a sixth sense, all our own.

But now I must get back to my own work, paper and pen cluttered desk and all, to continue my own word search whilst coping with the dissipating smell of my microwaved fish, seemingly a perfect fit for this cloudy, overcast day.  The hockey broadcast on the radio is used for background noise, if nothing else, and the sip of occasional coffee causes me to shudder, reminding me of how many times I have already reheated that same cup, and if I should do it yet another time.

Given my progress so far on this day, I probably will.